“Haven’t you ever wanted something so bad that it becomes more than a want? I need to get out of this town. I need it like I need to breathe.” – Amani (Alwyn Hamilton)
I received this book for my birthday (like many of the books I’ll be reviewing in the near future), and I couldn’t wait to get started on it. I’d heard raving reviews about Rebel of the Sands, and with such a gorgeous cover and an even more intriguing summary, I was already convinced this book would be everything I wanted it to be. And I was not let down- Rebel of the Sands is a fantastic novel. The action-packed pages and fiery romance drag the reader in, and from page one onward, I could hardly put this book down.
Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic. For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned, or female. Amani Al’Hiza is all three. She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can’t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she’s destined to wind up wed or dead. Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she’s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she’d gallop away on mythical horse—or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew.
As a debut novel for Alwyn Hamilton, I was blown away by the beauty and prowess of her writing style. Despite the fact that Amani’s story never had a dull moment, the entire thing flowed so smoothly. Beyond that, Hamilton really dragged readers in not only with her fantastic story-telling, but also through her complex, interesting characters. Amani and Jin, as individuals and through their relationship, peaked my interest right away. I mean, come on, a gun-slinging, independent girl and a mysterious, attractive foreigner who is equally stubborn and roguish? Count me in.
Amani’s character was particularly interesting. While she didn’t develop very much from her original presentation until near the end of the book, it didn’t really matter because I loved who she was. Rarely do you see female characters drug their obvious love interest and leave him behind because he’s slowing her down. Amani was everything I’ve been wanting from a tough female protagonist – tough as nails and unwavering in her goals. Amani didn’t let Jin influence her goals- her goals instead changed because she realized they needed to change in order for her to grow as a person. While Jin may have played a role in that, her love interest in him was hardly the deciding factor. I love it.
Jin is interesting as well. From the beginning, I suspected he was the Rebel Prince – I never expected him to not be the Rebel Prince. Hamilton did such a good job foreshadowing his expected role as the Prince, I never even considered another option. And we all know I love a good plot twist! Jin was also a complex character, and I am looking forward to learning more about him in the sequel (Alwyn Hamilton just announced the title – Traitor to the Throne – eek!)
Also, Amani and Jin’s burning romance – I need more of it! I love, love, love that they didn’t go from being complete strangers to immediately being lovers (this isn’t a Disney movie!). Their relationship felt tangible and real, and I am absolutely dying for more of it in Traitor to the Throne.
My only complaints about Rebel of the Sands are that it was far too short, and that I have to wait so long for the sequel. So if you’re looking for a good summer read, I certainly hope you’ve got this in your book pile, and if not, it’s time to pick it up! This book is everything a reader could want from a good fantasy read – magic, mystery, action and romance – in addition to being beautifully written. All in all, this is a spectacular debut novel for Alwyn Hamilton, and I can’t wait to read more of her work!