Amani Al’Hiza is a fierce sharpshooting desert girl trapped in her hometown of Dustwalk, where her gender leaves her at the mercy of men. When a mysterious foreigner Jin gives her a chance to escape she grabs it, running as far as she can from her old home, but this may prove to be more dangerous than she bargained for. Rebel of the Sands excels at world-building and brings you through a thrilling desert adventure with a charming couple sure to make you smile.
Rebel of the Sands by Alywn Hamilton
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic. For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned, or female.
Amani Al’Hiza is all three. She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can’t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she’s destined to wind up wed or dead.
Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she’s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she’d gallop away on mythical horse—or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew.
Rebel of the Sands reveals what happens when a dream deferred explodes—in the fires of rebellion, of romantic passion, and the all-consuming inferno of a girl finally, at long last, embracing her power.
A unique and wonderfully imagined setting. Hamilton’s world merges western saloons and gun-toting cowboys with mythical creatures of the desert, a combination I have definitely never seen before. I loved exploring Middle-Eastern fables and mythology, and was fascinated with the stories of djinn and buraqi that Hamilton presented.
An adorable (albeit cheesy) romance. Jin and Amani have some some great chemistry, and I’ve always been a sucker for couples with witty banter. The pair trade insults and sarcasm back and forth while attempting to hide their mutual attraction for each other, and I found myself wildly enjoying it.
Some questionable decision-making on Amani’s part. Look, I understand that Amani lives in a cruel and unforgiving world, and as a girl she must do what she needs to survive, even if this means sacrificing others along the way. What I don’t understand is why she disregarded these principles at the mere sight of Jin. It irritated me to see Amani abandon her friends and ignore others in need under the pretense of “I must look out for myself”, only for her to drop everything to help Jin not ten pages later.
Side characters bursting with personality. I really don’t want to spoil anything, but I loved the side characters that emerge in the latter half of the book. They were funny, headstrong, passionate, and I only wished I had more time with them. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel with more of these characters in it.
Needs a little more ‘show not tell’. Hamilton has a knack for revealing backstory through narrations or monologues, which I felt could have been improved. Slogging through long paragraphs of explanations has always been a pet peeve.
All in all this looks to be the start of a promising trilogy. I’m hoping to explore more of this captivating world, and getting to know the characters more as Amani continues her journey through Miraji.