Title: Rebel of the Sands
Author: Alwyn Hamilton
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 8, 2016
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.
As a blogger (or a reader in general, come to think of it), one of my favorite things to do in the world is to read books that generate a lot of hype before publication. Sure, there's a lot of excitement mixed in with a little trepidation and wariness involved, but I've always been one of those people who want to know why a certain thing (in this case, a book) is so often talked about, and so I go and grab myself a copy. This what what happened with Rebel of the Sands - I saw all the glowing, positive early reviews and I just know that I owe it to myself to give this one a shot as soon as possible. Do you know what another of my favorite things is? When said book manages to actually live up to the hype, and fast becomes something that you are incredibly glad to have taken the time to read.
GUYS. Give me a few minutes to freak out here because lately I have been on a huge fantasy binge (but I have to admit that so many of them are of the same vein and have similar premises) and I am in love at how unique and one of a kind Rebel of the Sands is! IT IS SOOO GOOD.
I'm sure that we all know that world-building can make of break a fantasy novel, and I honestly am at awe at how rich Hamilton's writing is. I found myself completely hooked from the get go, and I knew from the first page that I was in for a wild ride with Amani. Hamilton's world is beautifully crafted and excruciating detailed; every nook and cranny explored - Rebel of the Sands is set in the desert, and believe me when I say that I could practically feel the sand stuck all over my body and the desert heat as I read through this book. As I have previously mentioned, I also found myself intrigued at Rebel of the Sand's premise and setting - we rarely encounter YA novels set in the Middle East and that delve into its culture, and I LOVE that we are getting more and more of them this 2016.
The heart of Rebel of the Sands is Amani and her desire to to find a better tomorrow. After the untimely death of her mother, she is then sent to live with her aunt and uncle where she isn't exactly treated well. After Amani overhears a conversation wherein her uncle decides that it would be best to marry her off - maybe even to himself - Amani realizes that time is running out, and that she needs to escape from her village fast. She decides to join a gun shooting contest that will provide her with enough money to get her life started should she win. Amani ends up meeting a mysterious foreigner - Jin - who gives her the help she so desperately needs, and together, they set out to cross the desert.
I don't know if you guys know this but I am huge sucker for slow-burn romances. Rebel of the Sands isn't exactly romance-centric, but we do get little hints and telling moments between Amani and Jin every now and then. I loved the fact that Hamilton took care in building up the developing relationship between Amani and Jin, and that nothing was ever rushed. I also appreciated that we were shown through interactions how the trust between them grew, and how they learned to support and lean on each other through the tough times experienced while in the desert. At the end of the day, Rebel of the Sands is about Amani and her journey, and I believe that Hamilton choosing not to give unnecessary attention on the budding romance between Amani and Jin made the real focus of the story shine.
The plot pacing of Rebel of the Sands is more on the slow side for first half of the novel, and this first half of the novel centered around Amani's escape and growth, and how she and Jin learned to stand together and with each other. It was more about character growth and development, which is something I greatly appreciated. The latter parts of the novel, however, shifted its focus to more intriguing supporting characters, and the role of magic and mythology in the story. I didn't think it possible but I found myself even more hooked to the story!
All in all, consider Rebel in the Sands one of your must-reads of 2016, most especially if you're a fantasy fan. I found myself enthralled at this majestic world tat Hamilton has allowed us to be a part of, and I already can't wait for the sequel! Oh, just a quick note - you'll be glad to know that Rebel in the Sands does not end in a cliffhanger, so that's always a plus!
Rating: 5 Stars