Series: Rebel of the Sands #1
Published by Allen & Unwin on March 8th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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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 combines a rich desert setting with a Western flavour, with Amani as a sharpshooter from Dustwalk. But she’s also trying to escape her fate of becoming one of her uncle’s many wives, so she dresses as a boy and becomes the famed “Blue Eyed Bandit”, entering into competitions to try and win her way out. I loved how the Western and the Middle Eastern settings meshed seamlessly, allowing Amani to showcase her powerful alter ego to fight against female oppression by her male counterparts.
The central theme of this book is “if you can dream it, you can achieve it” and I was really invested in Amani’s journey throughout the story. She’s ambitious, she has fight and her confidence and sharp tongue aids her well throughout the book. She’s not afraid to put herself in danger or to shy away from new people or encounters, and above all, she really fights for what she believes in. And part of this is the hope in the Rebel Prince, that he’ll overthrow the Sultan and to start a new dawn. Amani is dead set on leaving Dustwalk and crossing the desert in search of a better life, and she’ll do absolutely everything in her power to get her way. She’s not perfect though, as she often gets herself into danger with her rash and impulsive decisions. She’s a well fleshed out character that really stands for feminism and ambition.
I’d spent my life dreaming of my own story that could start when I finally reached Izman. A story written in far-off places I didn’t know how to dream about yet. And on my way there, I’d slough off the desert until there was nothing left of it to mark the pages.
I absolutely loved the Western desert setting here, filled with mythical beasts and dangerous creatures. Throughout the book, Amani will encounter djinns, desert horses made out of sand and wind, nightmare ghouls and countless bandits. Not only does she have to survive these odds, but she must also escape the Sultan’s oldest son, Captain Naguib. I loved how the citizens of Miraji decided to wield guns to deal with these creatures who are not immune to metal.
There’s a hint of romance here, as Amani goes through her travels with the foreigner Jinn. I liked how they get to know each other over the course of the book and that they bonded over what they believed in. Plus there were some really intense kisses!
I was a desert girl. I thought I knew heat. I was wrong.
While I loved the setting, fast pace and Amani, Rebel of the Sands feels like an absolute whirlwind and everything happens really quickly. Once Amani’s survived an attack, or she’s met a character, or we hear of a legend about beasts, she’s racing to the next challenge and it’s hard to let everything sink in. The book feels really rushed, especially towards the ending where it gets wrapped up really quickly without much of an explanation. A whole host of characters are thrown in along with some twists and turns, and I felt like I really didn’t get to know them well.
Rebel of the Sands was a fantastic debut featuring a unique world filled with fantastical creatures, a kickass heroine, diversity and lots of action. While it skimmed over some of the characters and some plot points, overall it was a solid book and I can see why it’s hyped up!
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thanks Allen & Unwin for sending me this book for review!