Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton follows the story of Amani across the deserts of Miraji. Amani belongs to her uncle and he is free to marry her off to anyone he chooses, or even marry her himself. Refusing to accept her lot in life, Amani plots to run away from the family that has never accepted her and the dead-end town of Dustwalk. She sneaks out one night and heads to a shooting competition, hoping to win the bounty of 1000 coins. She’s a killer shot and knows that she can easily win, but the game makers are corrupt and things don’t go to plan. It is here that she meets Jin, a mysterious foreigner, and their stories become entangled from here on.
Great world building is a crucial to a fantasy novel and Alwyn Hamilton does this perfectly. We are quickly plunged into a magical world that seems to fuse a Western and Aladdin. There are mortal and immortal beings, new mythical creatures and rebel armies. Characters sit around camp fires telling tales of old and I found it so exciting to learn about all the new rules in this fantasy world. It’s difficult to write something completely original these days as the young adult genre is so saturated, but Hamilton’s world is mysterious and magical in all the right ways.
Hamilton spends the first half of the story introducing you to her new world and characters but it’s not until the second half that things start to get really interesting. It took me a little while to get into the story as I found the first half to be a little slow at times. However, there are numerous plot twists towards the end of the story that are completely unpredictable and you’ll be tearing through the last few chapters.
If you’re looking for a book with a kick-ass female lead, then Rebel of the Sands is for you. Amani is a tenacious girl, fighting against the prejudiced system in her home county. Women have no rights so Amani must disguise herself as a boy in order to escape Dustwalk and her uncle’s control over her. She feisty and reckless and you’ll be rooting for her from start to finish.
I have to say that despite this, I didn’t find her to be the most likeable character, but I did admire her a lot. She’s certainly a very interesting character but I didn’t think that she was developed quite as well as she could have been. I’m looking forward to the subsequent books in this series to see how her character progresses.
Weirdly, I thought the character Jin (and I guess you could call him ‘love interest’) was much older than he actually is in the books. As a result, I found the thought of any romance between Amani and him strange at first. The Jin at the beginning of the book is very different to the Jin at the end of this story and I guess that’s down to the fact that he has a hidden identity. I wasn’t a huge fan of his character at first but by the end of the book I had come round to him. His character definitely could have been developed a little better as I know I wasn’t the only one a little perplexed at how his character turned out.
Now before I wrap up this review, I have a confession. One of the main reasons I was drawn into this book is because of the cover. Yes, I’m a sucker for pretty covers, and let’s be honest, who isn’t? I needed a beautiful book to take with me on my travels around Thailand and Rebel of the Sands was my pick. You can check out all my #bookstagram photos with this gorgeous book over on my Instagram account: @whatshotblog. The cover release for Traitor to the Throne (book #2) is happening on Monday 12th September 2016 and I can’t wait to see it!
All in all, this is a strong debut to a new young adult series. This is only the first in the Rebel of the Sands trilogy and I for one can’t wait to see what happens next! The character development could do with some work but Hamilton has laid the groundwork for an awesome young adult trilogy in a world that is completely different from anything we’ve seen before. The strong female lead is definitely a huge plus and this mystical world will have you dreaming about desert sands and rebel princes.
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