Written by: Alwyn Hamilton
Published by: Viking Juvenile
Release date: March 8th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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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.
Rebel of the Sands reveals what happens when a dream deferred explodes—in the fires of rebellion, of romantic passion, and the all-consuming inferno of a girl finally, at long last, embracing her power.
THIS BOOK, YOU GUYS. This book was SO MUCH FUN. You all know how much I love a great fantasy, and I’ve been craving a fun “Wild West”-inspired book for quite some time. So when I read Rebel of the Sands, it was like getting the best of both worlds, and it was AMAZING. There are so many things to love about it — the plot and pacing (nonstop!), the worldbuilding (omg)… but most of all, of course, the characters. And especially Amani.
Amani is so fierce — and believably so. She had to grow into a tough young woman to survive in her town. She taught herself how to shoot, and she’s decided that her skills will get her out of her old life and into a better one. In the course of finding this new life, she gets caught up in a rebellion, and finds a purpose totally different from what she originally wanted, but it’s something she’s willing to fight for — and I loved this. Her goals broaden, from intensely personal to something that reaches beyond herself, and it was wonderful to watch.
I also adored Jin. A blend of cocky and incredibly capable, he is the perfect complement to Amani — he loves her take-no-crap attitude, and has no problem trusting and fighting beside a young woman. And as for Jin and Amani… I loved them together. The timeline of this book spans months, so it’s fantastic to see their relationship develop from a little bit of attraction, to something more, over a reasonable amount of time. There are plenty of complications in Amani and Jin’s way, though, so don’t expect things to wrap up in this book. But the two have excellent chemistry and a wonderful partnership, and I cannot wait for more of both in book two!
There are quite a few secondary characters, but the main ones (at least, the ones who look to be sticking around) don’t really show up until later in the book. That said, the bits we do get to know about them are awesome. Give me moooore!!!
And on top of great characters, the plot and pacing are also excellent. Once things took off (which was basically immediately), I was never, ever bored. There’s always something happening or about to happen, there’s always tension, and the stakes are always changing and always high. This book doesn’t have “slow parts,” but unlike some books that sometimes have a fast plot but lack in character development, obviously this one doesn’t have that issue. ;)
And THE WORLDBUILDING, omg. Can we get more books like this, please? Because this world is so awesome. It feels like a blend of the Middle East and the Wild West — and yes, it’s as cool as it sounds. Think Arabian Nights meets a Western cowboy movie. That’s how this YA fantasy gets away with having a gunslinging heroine as the main character. I don’t know about you, but that concept alone gets a great big HECK YES from me — and the fact that this book pulls it off? Double heck yes. There’s magic, djinn, ghouls, and other mythical and supernatural creatures. But since it’s grounded in a mix of two cultures that are somewhat familiar, it made for not only a super fun world, but one that is truly intriguing and easy to fall into.
I did have one tiny issue that was more of an “aw, darn” feeling than anything else — and that was the voice. In the beginning, I loved it. It had a very obvious Old West vibe to it, in a very good way. But as the book went on, it seemed like that tone grew less and less, and then when it did occasionally pop in, it was a little jarring. I would’ve liked to see that tone be more of a constant throughout, instead of lessening; but on the flip side, some people might like how, after it’s established in the beginning, there’s just a sprinkling throughout to give some flavor. *shrugs* It didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book too much, really; just something I found interesting.
Basically, if you think a blend of Middle Eastern/Arabian setting and culture, plus Wild West technology and action, sounds too amazing to be a real thing… you’re wrong. Because it is a real thing, it is super amazing, and it is called Rebel of the Sands. And you should read it.