Review: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

My Thoughts

bright and bold fantasy debut with an exciting
mix of Arabian mythology and Wild West grit.

4halfstars

Synopsis

Mar-08Mortals 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.

My Review

“There’s got to be more than here.”

Alwyn Hamilton delivers an exciting fantastical adventure that swirls in the sands of the Miraji desert, and unravels in the arenous streets of Dustwalk, where a girl dreams of a fate bigger than the one she’s been dealt. Touting a fusion of middle-eastern mythology and a bold Wild West feel, this novel was spirited and fresh with magic roiling like sand, in a time where those who possessed it either hid or were used by those with insidious agendas.

The story begins with Amani Al’Hiza, a talented gunslinger and orphan desperate to escape Dustwalk, her uncle and her fate.

“Dreaming about the places my mother talked about stopped being enough when the trapdoor dropped open below her feet.”

Without further recourse, especially as a woman living in a time where she was considered worthless, Amani dresses up as a boy and enters a shootout to win money she desperately needs.

It’s there she meets scrappy foreigner, Jin, a fellow competitor.

“Jin had the sort of smile that would turn over whole empires to the enemy – that made me feel like suddenly I understood him exactly, even though I knew nothing about him.”

Before they know it, they’re caught in chaos, which continues into the next day as the army marches through their streets, eventually hunting both Amani and Jin.

Their escape marks the beginning of an epic adventure. Amani began her story very much alone, and before long, she finds herself connecting with and relying on this charming foreigner. As bullets fly and cities burn, Amani learns truths about the kingdom, its Sultan, the rebellion and even herself. Amani unexpectedly collides with the very purpose she’s been seeking, something bigger than who she is, something worth fighting for.

“And then all I could see was the sand and I forgot about everything. About fear. About bombs. About Jin. The desert reached out for us all with huge open arms. The churning mass that was chaos in the streets became order in the sand, welcoming us home.”

I loved Amani’s fierceness, wit and verve. Loved that she wasn’t a perfect heroine, that we saw her vulnerability juxtaposed with her strength. Together with Jin, who was endlessly caring and loyal, they faced one challenge after another as they cheated death across sands, on trains and mythical horseback. The race to the end is rife with surprises, action and the promise of more to come. Overall, this was a bright and immersive debut and I can’t wait to read the sequel.

“You are this country, Amani.” He spoke more quietly now. “More alive than anything ought to be in this place. All fire and gunpowder, with one finger always on the trigger.”

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