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Rebel of the Sands
By Alwyn Hamilton
Read: November 5 - 6, 2015
Published: March 8, 2016 by Penguin
Source: Galley from publisher (THANK YOU, PENGUIN!)
Tags: Fantasy, desert, magic, Djini,
Series: 1 of 3 Rebel of the Sands Trilogy
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.
The first thought I had when I started Rebel in the Sands was that it felt like a western. The book opens in a seedy bar called Deadshot in a small town on the edge of a desert, where a cross dressing girl-bandit is about to compete in a sharpshooting contest. The story also features a journey through lonely desert towns, a railroad chase, captured horses, prison breaks, secret hideouts and a mysterious (and attractive) stranger. All elements found in your typical western.
But from even the cover, it's clear that this wild west show is decidedly eastern. Ruled by a powerful sultan, these lands are filled with camels and magical horses that form out of the sand, immortal Djinni and the much more sinister Skinwalkers and ghouls, none of which you want to encounter in the dark. Not to mention that Amani leaves town with a lot more fanfare than she expected, including the sultan's army chasing after her.
Rebel in the Sands is a really great adventure story, starring a girl with a remarkable talent for shooting and survival, who will do anything to escape her dead end life. After Amani overhears her uncle's plans to add her to his number of wives, she is determined to get out at all cost. What she doesn't expect is to meet a mysterious ally at the Deadshot and then keep running into him. Amani thought she was alone in the world, but she soon realizes that working with Jin will serve them each better. Even though he is a fugitive, and the main reason the sultan's army is even after them.
Although I had a great time reading this book from start to finish, its many layers are what truly enchanted me. The way the story feels like a western at first, but is actually something else entirely. The way it starts with a simple girl escaping a bad situation, but turns into an epic cross country adventure and slow burn romance. The way I was focused on some revelations and completely missed others. I thought this book was fairly straightforward and that I knew all the reveals to come, but this book surprised me in places.
And of course, as a romance girl, I loved the growing relationship between Amani and Jin. These two spend most of the book in each other's company, but trust and romance between them is slow to build. From the beginning they have fantastic banter and tension, and once they get on the same page, I love how they they scheme and support each other, even when protecting each other means making out :). Both Amani and Jin have a great understanding of when they should step forward and when they should step back and let the other lead a situation, which stood out to me all the more in a society where women have little to no power. I cannot wait for more of these two in future books.
Nearly every series installment seems to end with a crazy cliffhanger these days, so it was a great surprise (and relief) that this book doesn't have one. Rebel of the Sands is the first in a trilogy, and the ending anticipates more to come, without leaving the characters in angst or peril. Cliffhanger, or not, I cannot wait to find out where Amani takes us next.
In sum, I loved this book! Rebel of the Sands is filled with exciting adventure, revelations and romance, all starring a gun-wielding, horse-riding, thieving, blue-eyed bandit-girl and the mysterious fugitive, with whom she teams up. Don't miss this one!
Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Low - ends in a good spot, with anticipation of what is to come.
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