“Rebel of The Sands” (Rebel of the Sands #1) by Alwyn Hamilton (2016)
Genre: YA, Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
Page Length: 314 pages (hardcover edition)
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. (description from Goodreads)
Rebel of the Sands tells the tale of a fierce heroine named Amani who wants a better life than what is presented for her in the town of Dustlook. Living under her uncle’s roof isn’t the most ideal situation for our protagonist since space in the house is cramped and her relatives are always cruel to her. Amani keeps her spirits up by constantly planning an escape route out of town and dreaming of exploring the world that surrounds her.
The plot for this novel sounds like something straight out of Arabian Nights and has an overall adventurous and exotic feel to it. Amani has the heart of an explorer through her journey of finding strange lands and mythical beasts. Because of this I was constantly entertained by many fantasy elements of the story.
Hamilton does an exceptional job of writing this novel and puts of lot of detail into her character’s descriptions, landscapes, and the legendary tales that exist in Amani’s universe. All of these aspects of the story make the reader feel if they have traveled to a completely different time and place. While reading this book, it was like I was under a spell and no matter where I picked up where I left off (in the book) I always felt immersed in it. While Amani’s world seems like an exciting place, we are also quickly reminded (by certain events) of how deadly and dangerous deserts can be.
Amani is an admirable protagonist who is intelligent, brave, and an excellent sharp shooter who knows what she wants most out of life. I appreciated that while she seems like a super-heroine, Hamilton also presents her as a vulnerable young woman as her physical journey is also a self-discovery process. Amani sometimes jumps into situations without thinking and more than often it gets in her trouble. She’s not perfect nor does she know all of the answers and I really enjoyed that about her character.
As for the romance, Amani and her love interest Jin make such a great team! At the beginning of the story, they are weary of each other, but as the plot moves along they learn to open up and rely on each other as friends. Amani and Jin have each other’s back and both of them are quick-thinking, skillful, and have good knowledge of the lands. Rather than jumping head first into love (the initial attraction is there) they focus on the journey at hand and then their friendship turns into something more.
All in all, I think Rebel of the Sands is a well-written novel and is an engaging story. While it has many fantasy elements such as Skin-walkers and Nightmares it also has strong themes of self-discovery and looking forward to a brighter future which gives it a larger audience appeal. I cannot wait till the next installment of this series!