- Rebel of the Sands, Alwyn Hamilton
Rating: * * * * *
Series: #1 Rebel of the Sands
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Publication Date: Feb 2016 (UK)
Goodreads synopsis: ‘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.’
Rebel of the Sands is a sandstorm of a story: it’s fast-paced and action-packed, and it pulls the reader in from the very beginning.
There are so many enjoyable elements to the novel, from its courageous, active and sharp-witted heroine, Amani, who Alwyn Hamilton has you rooting for from the first page, to the inclusions of mystical beings, such as Buraqi – horses who can turn from sand to flesh and blood – and Skinwalkers, who can take on the shapes of men to fool the unsuspecting.
One of the aspects I love most about Rebel is the inclusion of legends, stories of the relationships between immortals and mortals, of princesses, Sultans, and the Rebel Prince, of greed and of escape. These add a magical aura to the story, and I really enjoy the way that Alwyn Hamilton introduces the stories, and then some of them later link to Amani’s reality. They also give an Arabian Nights feel.
Another strength of the novel is that the setting and individual scenes are highly atmospheric and visual. This is particularly true of the opening scene with the bottle-shooting contest, the scene where Amani is in the shop being interrogated by soldiers, and the one where she is with someone in great need of help and desperate for a door to open. The reader has a vivid picture of all.
There is also a great amount of tension in the novel, with Amani and Jin on the run, and with the growing threat of full-on rebellion. This makes the novel gripping from start to finish.
Overall, Rebel is an exciting and addictive merging of fantasy, adventure and romance, and a must-read for fans of An Ember in the Ashes and Blood Red Road.
‘The world makes things for each place. Fish for the sea, Rocs for mountain skies, and girls with sun in their skin and perfect aim for a desert that doesn’t let weakness live.’