Series: Rebel of the Sands #1
Publication Date: March 8, 2016
Publisher: Viking Children's Books
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 302 (ARC)
Source: New York Comic Con 2015
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.
This book was everything I wanted it to be and more. It is literally a checklist of perfection when it comes to everything I need from a fantasy. Take a look at my ten must's and bask in this book's wondrous glory alongside me.
1. An enticing description? Check.
This is 100% Arabian Nights meets the wild west. Absolute perfection.
2. Characters worth getting behind? Check
HOLY COW! Not only is Amani, the blue-eyed bandit with a gun, an amazing heroine that is easy to support, but so are everyone that surround her. Jin, Shazad, Ahmed, Bahi, and the list goes on and on. Such a diverse cast of characters with diverse personalities.
3. Evil characters that are vile? Check.
I know this is a sucky thing at times, but let's be real. No fantasy is going to do well without evil characters and there are all different kinds of evil in this book. I never realized that there is different levels of evils, but there definitely is in this book.
4. Strong females? Check.
As I mentioned before, Amani is strong and so sure of herself, but look at Shazad! A female general that has earned the respect of men in a land where women are either wed or dead. Amazing. Such a great influence. I love Hamilton for creating her so much.
5. Amazing world-building? Check.
This book takes place in the desert and Hamilton took advantage of this. It wasn't just sand everywhere, but so much more. Hamilton painted an entire empire and enemy empires out of the blue in such a vivid way a map was not needed. Miraji is a scary, scary place, but with such redeeming characters helping along such a well-written world, you can't help but immediately be engrossed.
6. Ridiculously fascinating lore? Check.
I asked Alwyn Hamilton on Twitter how she created this lore and she used basic research combined with a few necessities from her plot (such as iron) to create her own lore. And holy cow, it is enticing and intriguing and I would read an entire book of Djinni legends alone. It is so well done and really paints this world even more vividly than before! I WANT MORE DJINNI'S IN YA!
7. Romance that is a beautiful sub-plot? Check.
This world is dog eat dog and actively seeking out romance is kind of a necessity for women to survive. What makes Amani stand out so much is that she chooses to survive as a woman--and is capable of doing so--without a man at her side. But aside from that, she does not want a man at her side and actively discourages men in her village from approaching her with her wit, unique eyes, and killer gun skills. Thus, this romance kind of sneaks up on readers just as it sneaks up on her. It is a sub-plot, not a huge focus, with just three kisses if I remember correctly, but it was so sweet and satisfying as a reader because it came at just the right time. I am excited for what is to come in book two!
8. Magic? Check.
So, this isn't necessarily magic since it has to deal with the Djinni lore in the book, but I am classifying what happens in this book as magic instead of ruining the lore for people since it is so beautiful it deserves to be read on its own. Instead, I will say that kids that aren't fully human in this time have special powers that manifest in different ways. The concept behind these unique abilities is super interesting, but how these abilities manifest and change lives is also interesting. To see the endless possibilities is awesome as a lover of fantasy, and Hamilton is taking advantage of this cool plot device to the best of her ability. I want her to keep sticking with it and run in book two. I cannot wait!
9. Epic battles that have you on the edge of your seat while you read death, doom, and destruction? Check.
The climax of this story comes near the end of this book and it is so interesting. It is human combat but it is also combat involving things that are other. It had me on the edge of my seat and I almost cursed the train conductor for arriving at my stop instead of allowing me to read straight through. Epic battles are necessary, even if they break your heart at certain times. But if such a thing can have a powerful effect on you, you know it is a good book. And even though I DO NOT LIKE IT WHEN PEOPLE DIE, it made me read even faster to know what happens next.
10. No choice but to make you flip pages at a lightning fast speed? Check.
This is pretty self-explanatory. This is a 400 page story packed into a smaller amount of pages in ARC form, but dang, I could not put it down. I needed it to continue on forever and never stop! I found myself frowning when I flipped the last page, and that says something. I may or may not have even gotten yelled at at work about reading. Oops.
Final verdict: Read this book and you will not regret it. Hamilton is bursting onto the YA scene and she cannot be stopped. Book two needs to be here pronto! A girl who is more gunpowder than girl, a boy with too many secrets, and a desert hiding friends, enemies, and creatures of nightmares, REBEL OF THE SANDS will satisfy any fantasy reader and leave them begging for more as they immerse themselves in her fantastical new world that is part Arabian Nights, part western, and part something that cannot even be described.
FTC Disclaimer: I received no compensation of any kind in exchange for my honest review.