Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Series: Rebel of the Sands #1
Published by Viking Books For Young Readers
Published on March 8, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic, Romance
Format: ARC, Paperback
Buy on B&N
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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.
The story of a rebel who finds her cause…
Rebel of the Sands was my most anticipated debut of 2016. So, of course, I leapt at the chance to get my hands on it early. I am proud to say that not one iron bullet’s worth of disappointment resides in my heart after finishing this book. (Which is good because otherwise I’d probably be dead.)
There are so many things that I loved about this story. First, the writing is lyrical and mesmerizing (as you’ll see first-hand in some of the quotes I included below). Rebel of the Sands is an impressive debut from author Alwyn Hamilton.
Second, Hamilton’s ability to transport readers to the blazing desert setting of Miraji is flawless. I had to grab a glass of water every time I picked up Rebel of the Sands, because this story never lets you forget that you are in the desert. From the grains of sand decorating the chapter headers and lining the creases of every single page, to the author’s stunning and descriptive imagery, Rebel of the Sands pulls you into its sandstorm and gets you lost in the desert heat and enchanting beauty of Miraji. But, setting alone is not what makes Miraji such an intriguing world. There’s also the magnificence of the magic and mythology that is the backbone of Rebel of the Sands. In Miraji, under a blackened sky, Nightmares roam the sands looking to feast on foolish travelers. Magical Buraqi, wild and free horses made of wind and sand, are hunted and sold for gold. And, immortal Djinn are executed by the Sultan’s soldiers for the crime of being born abominations. Those are only glimpses of the captivating creatures that are the foundation of this debut. Rebel of the Sands is rich with riveting history and spellbinding tales!
“In the desert you learned to look out for ghouls in the shadows. Ghouls came in a thousand different forms. Tall faceless Skinwalkers, who’d eat a man’s flesh and take his shape so they could feast on his family, too. Small leathery Nightmares, who sunk their teeth into sleeping men’s chests and fed off their fear until the soul was sucked out.”
Third, there’s Amani. Our protagonist. Yet another addition to my long list of ‘Badass Heroines I Love’. (She’s up there somewhere between Shazi and Lia.) Amani is easily a character to root for. She’s had a horrific childhood and upbringing, and is still living a difficult life. But, she perseveres. Nothing is going to stop her from leaving her no-good, rundown town of Dustwalk. Especially not her gender. Cue Amani’s flawless and frequent disguise as a man in a land where a woman’s word means next to nothing, and being discovered could mean her death. I absolutely loved Amani’s spirit. She’s fierce and determined and adventurous and sassy as hell! But, she’s not perfect. She talks too much and thinks too little before making decisions. But her impulsivity and fervor are what make her relatable and lovable.
“You are this country, Amani. […] More alive than anything ought to be in this place. All fire and gunpowder, with one finger always on the trigger.”
Fourth, and final, we have Jin. The boy who helps the rebel find her way through the sands. Jin has a bit in common with Amani — he’s brave and witty. But, he’s also full of mystery, bursting to the brim with secrets. Of all the men in Amani’s life, Jin doesn’t look at her and see a wife. He sees a friend. A companion. An equal. He’s like, “I’m about to go on a long journey, and I think you’re a cool chick. So, do you want to come with?” And, I love that about his character. (Also, he’s not afraid to call Amani out on her BS!) I’m excited to see what becomes of their relationship!
“Being born doesn’t make a single soul important. But you were important when I met you, that girl who dressed as a boy, who taught herself to shoot true, who dreamed and saved and wanted so badly. That girl was someone who had made herself matter. She was someone I liked. What the hell has happened since you came here that she is so worthless to you?”
Overall, Rebel of the Sands is quite the adventure. It’s lush with gorgeous storytelling, plot twists galore, and political intrigue that we are sure to delve deeper into in upcoming books.
This one deserves all of the stars in the desert sky.
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