Series: Rebel of the Sands #2
Published by Faber & Faber on February 2nd 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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This is not about blood or love. This is about treason.
Nearly a year has passed since Amani and the rebels won their epic battle at Fahali. Amani has come into both her powers and her reputation as the Blue-Eyed Bandit, and the Rebel Prince's message has spread across the desert - and some might say out of control. But when a surprise encounter turns into a brutal kidnapping, Amani finds herself betrayed in the cruellest manner possible.
Stripped of her powers and her identity, and torn from the man she loves, Amani must return to her desert-girl's instinct for survival. For the Sultan's palace is a dangerous one, and the harem is a viper's nest of suspicion, fear and intrigue. Just the right place for a spy to thrive... But spying is a dangerous game, and when ghosts from Amani's past emerge to haunt her, she begins to wonder if she can trust her own treacherous heart.
More action, more rebellion and more of the exotic setting, I loved the follow up to Rebel of the Sands. At 500 pages, I lavished the setting of the novel and the development of characters past and present.
At the start of the book, Amani is kidnapped into the Sultan’s harem, where she faces a new challenge – competing against the girls in the harem and learning to survive from the inside. While the concept of a harem was actually quite uncomfortable, we thankfully didn’t see Rahim or the Sultan going too far when it came to these women. The harem dynamics was also surprisingly complex, from the bitchy female competition, to the rumour mill, disappearing girls and others who are vying for the top position.
I wasn’t beautiful. I wasn’t here because of that. I was here because I was powerful.
In the palace, Amani encounters people who she thought were left in the past, including her cousin Shira. Although they share an antagonistic relationship, failing to recognise their own flesh and blood, their circumstances lead them to build a tentative trust in each other. Shira’s plotline was one of the most powerful in the book for me, showing that power isn’t simply in brawn or sharpshooting.
This series does embody feminism and strong female relationships, although it often paints other females in an unsuitable light, in order to boost others. For example, the other harem women are seen as bitchy and insipid, when really they’re just doing what they’ve known to survive. Shazad, the General’s daughter, is often underestimated because she’s incredibly beautiful, and no one expects her to actually be kick ass. While it may be reflective of the middle eastern setting, is the notion of beauty =/= brains really the right way to go about it?
Part of what makes this series really shine is the strength in it’s characters – I loved Shazad and Amani’s boundless trust in one another, even when they were separated. Sam, the mysterious double agent who borrowed the reputation of the Blue-Eyed Bandit, was also a fascinating character and I often wondered about his motives. Ahmed, the Rebel Prince who leads the rebellion with his empathetic, charismatic ways was also well developed. There’s definitely more to each character than meets the eye, and I like how the author takes time to develop each character and their motives.
In particular, I was fascinated with the Sultan, who the rebellion has painted as an evil tyrant, but it turns out he truly believes that violence is the way to move his country forward. He’s a multi-dimensional villain – although you know that he’s slaughtered his way to the throne, his charisma really shapes him as a solid and ruthless leader. Even Amani herself really starts to question whether he really should be overthrown, which provides an interesting dynamic.
Filled with dramatic entrances and exits, twists and turns and nail-biting action, I loved Traitor to the Throne and Amani’s adventure on the other side of the rebellion. The unique blend of the middle-Eastern setting, steampunk elements and fantasy setting makes it a fascinating read.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thanks to Allen & Unwin Australia for sending me a review copy!
Traitor to the Throne is available at Australian bookstores for RRP$16.99.
Rebel of the Sands is becoming a movie! Check out the news here.
Problematic rep? Fadwa @ Word Wonders has highlighted the problematic Muslim representation in the book.