I’ve been feeling sort of down and out with young adult novels lately. I’ve read too many that were crummy, and I was about to write off genre altogether (unfair, I know). Luckily, Rebel of the Sands saved me from that fate. I can see why it won the Goodreads Choice Award for debut author. Alwyn Hamilton did a fantastic job crafting a tale that combines a spunky, sharp-shooting, female protagonist with mystical middle-eastern mythology.
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Series: Rebel of the Sands #1
Published by Viking Books for Young Readers on March 8th 2016
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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.
What I give the Ali Seal of Approval (aka what I liked):
- You start reading this novel and it really feels like you’re reading about a Western set in the middle east. It’s very cool. As you progress, the novel slowly begins incorporating fantasy elements, and while I thought it would be weird, it ended up being perfect!
- Hamilton’s writing was so refreshing. Again, I had been reading so many crap YA novels, so to sit down and read the first page of Rebel of the Sands felt like taking a cool bath after being out under a desert sun.
- I loved the mythology elements of the story. I don’t want to mention them and ruin any elements of surprise, but Hamilton did such a good job incorporating them, they ended up being believable.
- The cover of this book is one of my favorites ever. Yeah, this doesn’t actually contribute to my overall rating, but it’s worth mentioning (and probably part of why I bought this book in the first place).
What I was underwhelmed by:
- The source of the main conflict of the novel was meh to me. In fact, as I was writing this review I had to sit and think really hard about what the conflict even was.
Definitely worth a read if the synopsis appeals to you!
Oh, and before you go:
Happy book birthday (today!) to Traitor to the Throne, the sequel to Rebel of the Sands. This book has an equally gorgeous cover, so I’ll probably end up buying it for that reason alone (le sigh. I have problems). See more about it here:Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton
Series: Rebel of the Sands #2
Published by Faber & Faber on February 2nd 2017
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.
Have you read either of these books? What were your thoughts? Do you know of other good fantasy novels set in the middle-east?