Rebel of the Sands Review: A Desert Setting with a Western Flavour

May 6, 2016 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 4 stars, Books, Reviews

Rebel of the Sands Review: A Desert Setting with a Western FlavourRebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Series: Rebel of the Sands #1
Published by Allen & Unwin on March 8th 2016
Source: Publisher
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! 


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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Tiktok@happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.


30 responses to “Rebel of the Sands Review: A Desert Setting with a Western Flavour

  1. This book originally wasn't on my TBR because I am being really strict when it comes to adding new series (because I am reading 80 at the moment and it is just TOO MANY). But I keep seeing really positive reviews about this one, and I have to say I am almost convinced to add it to my TBR. It just sounds like it's really awesome and diverse. And I also love the 'girl disguised as boy' trope because it usually ends up being really feelsy, haha XD

    It's a shame that you felt like some of the thins were rushed, though! Especially since this is the first in the series – it's usually the other way round. I hope it settles down in the second book!

    Lovely review, Jeannie <3
    My recent post Simply Sunday (#33)

    • You\’ve been so good with clearing the decks! I don\’t even want to count how many different series I\’m reading at the moment. This one was a fun ride, even though it felt a bit rushed later on. Thank you lovely!

  2. I absolutely loved the first half of this book, but things started to fizzle out the second half for me because of how quickly it started to move, like you said. It was a little too quick if you ask me.
    In any case, this is definitely a series I'm excited about. I can't wait for more of Amani and the plot and the setting. It's going to be epic, I can tell! 🙂
    Lovely review, Jeann. I'm glad you liked it!
    My recent post Disappointing Series & Why They Might Be A Good Thing

    • Yeah, it was like so much action and barely any story development! I\’m so glad you ended up enjoying though Nick. Amani was awesome and the setting was super epic!

  3. Omgosh Jeann, I absolutely adored this book! How great was setting, I'm definitely keen to read more Middle-Eastern and Western hybrids. And Amani was just wonderful, I love how she doesn't need Jin to protect her at all. Can't wait for the sequel!

    • It was such an interesting setting that was done really well! I'm so glad you liked it too Joy, Amani was a really great heroine!

  4. Rachel Lightwood

    I read this one recently too. I wasn't a massive but I agree that it was a solid debut. Cannot wait to see where to story heads next, and I have a feeling this author is going to write some truly fantastic books in the future – if this where she starts! Great review.
    My recent post I’m Back!! Bee’s Hiatus Recap

  5. Love, love, love this book! Which is a surprise and a half considering I don't typically enjoy fantasy books and the like. So glad you enjoyed it, too, Jeann.

  6. I've been a bit scared to read this because of all the hype, but seeing your review makes me want to give it a try. So glad it lived up to the hype and that you enjoyed it so much Jeann! <3

  7. sumlynnnguyen

    It's been a while since I've read a fast paced YA fantasy and this sounds pretty good! Even though this has received a lot of hype in the community I think it wasn't until I read your review did it convince me to give this a try someday. The mix between the Middle East and Western influences sounds intriguing! Nice review, Jeann. ^.^ And I love the featured photo; such fancy and pretty gold jewelry! 🙂
    My recent post Summing It Up: April 2016

    • Yay, I'm glad you like the sound of this book! It was definitely a creative and fun setting with some great characters. I hope you enjoy it if you pick it up Summer!

  8. Cyn @ Bookmunchies

    Yay, glad this is living up to the hype! I do love a kickass heroine and the setting sounds amazing! The romance sounds subtle but good. Definitely excited to read this! Great review, Jeann!

  9. I'm so pleased you enjoyed this one! I thought the setting was amazing, too. It was probably my favourite aspect, because of how original and diverse it made the book. I really liked the characters too – Amani was so badass! I loved how she fought everyone, and did everything for herself. I actually quite liked the romance too! I wasn't a fan of the pacing though – some scenes felt rushed, yet some felt excruciatingly slow. Lovely review! 🙂

    Denise | The Bibliolater
    My recent post Does the perfect book even exist?

    • Amani was such a fierce character, I really enjoyed following her story! Lots of the elements worked out really well, I didn't even mind the romance too much. Thanks Denise!

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