Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton (Rebel of the Sands #1)
Published March 8, 2016 by Viking Books for Young Readers, 320 pp.
She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.
Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from.
Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him…or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.
How goes it?
As much as I like romance, I do enjoy a strong heroine who can hold her own! I flew through this read, thanks to the action and everything happening fast, but not too fast.
Rebel of the Sands follows Amani and her quest to escape from her small, dust-choked town in the middle of the desert. The extent of her plan is to get to the big city and find her aunt, and it’s supposed to be as straightforward as that, but when things go awry at the competition that was supposed to finance her trip, her plans unravel. Now Amani’s on the run from a royal army, wrapped up in a prince’s bid to reclaim the throne, and finding out more about herself than she thought she would.
Actually what I liked best about this book is the female empowerment aspect. The society Amani moves in is very patriarchal – women can’t own property, they have to have husbands that speak for them, and they basically don’t exist, or matter. Amani, and the rest of the women she meets, takes charge of what she wants and how she goes about it. Even her cousin, despite being a complete bitch about it, found a way to escape her household.
Amani as a heroine is great – she is proactive, resilient, and can, for the most part, handle herself, which is why I think Jin is just okay as a hero. Maybe it’s because Amani seems just fine by herself, that I think he doesn’t seem necessary, and I haven’t felt the connection between the two of them just yet. I have high hopes for the two of them though, that I can root for them in the following book.
I like how the book became just more than Amani – her goal in the beginning was just to get out of a house that barely tolerated her, and get to the city in hopes of finding something, like she wasn’t even sure of what was out there, just that she knew she had to get out. In the end she had a new goal, even if how she got there wasn’t exactly by choice, and she had a ragtag family of sorts.
There is also lots of action in this, action that I didn’t mind one bit, and the mixture of mortals and the creatures born of mythology make for a really interesting ride across the desert.
There’s still a lot of gaps to be filled – from who exactly this aunt of hers is, and why her mother clung to the memory of her so much, why her mother had lashed out, the exact nature of the djinns. The world-building is also kind of spotty – I can’t quite picture the countries or kingdoms just yet, but damn if the desert imagery here isn’t great.
All in all, I liked this! I think it sets the pace of the following books quite well, and with that ending, it definitely needs a sequel.
4 paper planes, mostly for Amani and the kickass women from the rebel prince’s camp, and the awesome desert imagery.