Title: Rebel of the Sands
Author: Alwyn Hamilton
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Publication Date: 24th February 2016
Rating: 4/5 stars
Tell me how you want your story to go, he says, and we’ll write it straight across the sand.
Dustwalk is an unforgiving, dead-end town. It’s not the place to be poor or orphaned or female. And yet Amani Al’Hiza must call it ‘home’.
Amani wants to escape and see the world she’s heard about in campfire stories.
Then a foreigner with no name turns up, and with him she has the chance to run.
But the desert plains are full of dangerous magic. The Sultan’s army is on the rise and Amani is soon caught at the heart of a fearless rebellion…
An epic story of swirling desert sands, love, magic and revolution.
The book begins with a shooting competition. Amani, the protagonist, has dressed as a man to participate. An orphaned female in a terribly misogynistic world, Amani is desperate to escape. She has spent the past year living with her aunt’s family, but her uncle has just decided she could make him a good wife. She needs to win the money so that she can get out of Dustwalk, escape his advances and start her own life.
I quite liked the world-building. The setting is a kind of cross between the Wild West and Arabian Nights. The culture seems rather old-fashioned, but guns are commonplace – everyone in Dustwalk knows how to shoot. The world’s magic relies on Djinni, and as the book progresses we discover that Demdji (half-Djinn) are a thing too. While I liked the very mythical element to learning about the magic, the story took much too long to get to the point. I wanted to see magic in action earlier on, seeing as this book is YA fantasy! And when there was finally a bit of magic, I wasn’t prepared enough, and then got confused….
In addition to the culture of Dustwalk, the readers glean a little bit of the political situation of Miraji (the country in which Dustwalk sits). The Sultan rules, but he was forged alliances with foreigners, pretty much letting them loose on his people. But one of the Sultan’s sons is determined to change this and leads an army through the desert, hiding from his father. The Rebel Prince.
Early in the book, Amani meets a mysterious young man, who we come to know as Jin. Throughout the first half of the novel, his identity is supposed to be a total mystery, but when it was revealed I felt it had been a bit too predictable.
Much of the story was slow, until the last thirty pages in which there was a HUGE fight scene. However, I didn’t catch a lot of it – the sudden change in pace messed up the flow of the story for me. The terrifying weapon which is in the hands of the foreigners turns out to be pretty cool though – and there is a twist in its connection to Amani which I thought was very intriguing.
While Rebel of the Sands is a tantalising beginning to what will surely be a great series, it isn’t strong as a first book. I hope that the second and third live up to their potential more than this one did.
Having had a spate of concerning YA fantasy covers recently (most notably Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club), I am so pleased with this beautiful cover. The gold is very striking! It is a pretty book and I want a copy for my shelves.
Despite my issues with the story’s pacing, the series has been set up to take a seriously brilliant turn. Now I just have to wait for the second book to reach my hands before I can make a final judgement!
Does the first book have to be AMAZING for you to continue with a series? Or will you give an author the benefit of the doubt?