Book: Rebel of The Sands (Rebel of The Sands Trilogy #1)
Author: Alwyn Hamilton
I was so excited to read this book, firstly because it sounded great and secondly because I met Alwyn Hamilton at YALC last year and she was so lovely, so I really wanted to love this book (it’s difficult to hate a book when you’ve met the author I feel) and I am pleased to say that it lived up to every expectation I had and then some! It’s definitely my favourite book that I’ve read so far this year and everything else I read now has some pretty high standards to live up to. I can’t wait for the next book in the series already. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
“Tell me that and we’ll go. Right now. Save ourselves and leave this place to burn. Tell me that’s how you want your story to go and we’ll write it straight across the sand.”
Dustwalk is Amani’s home. The desert sand is in her bones. But she wants to escape. More than a want. A need.
Then a foreigner with no name turns up to save her life, and with him the chance to run. But to where? The desert plains are full of danger. Sand and blood are swirling, and the Sultan’s enemies are on the rise.
I think when explaining why I loved this book so much, I have to start with Amani as the main character because she was definitely a major factor in why I loved the book so much. She’s just incredible, basically she’s everything that I love in a female heroine all rolled into one, she’s strong, smart, feisty, determined and compassionate and she doesn’t want or need a guy (though there is romance in this book, I will get to that later in the review) and she wants more for herself than what her society is willing to give her and she’s willing to fight to get it. She really is an absolutely wonderful main character.
I also really loved the desert setting. I’ve never really read anything set in the desert before and I thought it was a great choice for a setting and really added to the magic of the book, in fact it almost felt like the setting was a character in itself, which I think is the mark of a really great book, when the setting feels alive. I wasn’t sure whether the mix of American West and Arabian culture was really going to work but the two worlds blend seamlessly together.
I briefly mentioned the romance, but I’d like to expand on it here. I really loved the romance in this book because it’s precisely what I like from my book romances. Amani and Jin’s relationship is a definite slow burn romance, which is just the kind I love, they don’t fall in love straight away, it’s a slow process and develops through the book. Their chemistry is palpable, you can feel it every time they are together and I loved the back and forth banter between them. I’m so excited to see where this relationship progresses in the next two books! I also love that there doesn’t seem to be any hint of a love triangle yet. Let’s keep this going please!
Speaking of Jin, I really loved him too. He’s kind of mysterious, but charming and funny, intelligent and awesome at fighting, and he and Amani make such a great team, which I loved, that it wasn’t him fighting to protect Amani, they worked to protect each other.
I really loved the world building, I liked the combination of modern things like guns and trains and technology with all the magic and fantastical elements, like Djinni and ghouls and Buraqi, I particularly loved the Buraqi, they were so cool, I love the idea of a desert horse made out of sound, though I found the scene where they captured one a little upsetting. I liked that they could only be caught and made mortal by a woman, I thought that was interesting given the patriarchal society of the book. I thought the world was really well developed for a first book (sometimes authors can be a little sloppy on world building in first books, preferring to focus more on the characters, which is fine, but I often find the world building is a little lacking), you get a real sense of this patriarchal society and the desert in which Amani lives. I found the patriarchal aspect (especially the polygamy) a little difficult to swallow, but it adds authenticity to the world. I liked the mythology and folklore tales that were featured in the book as well as the Mirajin celebrations, I felt it really added to the world that Hamilton created. One thing I would say is that I’d have liked a map included in the book, small thing and it obviously has nothing to do with the writing (which I thought was lovely), but it’s just something that I’m used to in fantasy books and since there’s a lot of moving around in this book, a map would have really helped me picture all the different parts of the desert.
Some of the chapters occasionally felt a little long, but overall, there was a nice mix of longer and shorter chapters and I thought the pacing of the book was pretty good, there were a lot of great action sequences (I mean you get shoot outs, train chases, sand storms what more could you ask for?) but it wasn’t constantly fast paced, there was a nice mix of faster and slower paced chapters, which kept me engaged.
There were a couple of twists, one that I kind of saw coming, although I was slightly wrong about the exact nature of the twist and one that I really didn’t though I probably should have as there are hints through the book and I suggested at it when I featured this book in my Wishlist Wednesday post on it, though I must have forgotten between writing that post and reading the book!
I loved all of the secondary rebel characters, particularly Shazad, who was another strong female like Amani, though I feel in a slightly different way. I especially liked the friendship and camaraderie between the rebel group, but particularly Amani and Shazad as I love it when books show that two strong female characters can be friends! I’m looking forward to seeing more of their friendship in the later books.I didn’t like Hala much at first, but I came to appreciate her more towards the end of the book, she’s a bit prickly and slightly rude but you can tell she really cares about all the other rebels and her Demdji powers are really cool. Overall I loved all of the secondary characters and I can’t wait to see more of them in the next book as they’re a really great group. Even characters that weren’t in the book for very long, like Amani’s friend from Dustwalk Tamid, he wasn’t in the book for all that long, yet you still get a good sense of who he is as a character and what his relationship to Amani was like, I think that’s the mark of a very talented writer, that both the world and all of the characters, even the very minor ones are very well developed.
I loved that the ending wasn’t a cliffhanger, I mean it was written in a way that means you know there are going to be further books but not with a cliffhanger that means I’m going to be tearing my hair out waiting for the next book (I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m going to be very impatient waiting for the next book because this one was so good and I really want to read the next one as soon as possible) but I liked that she didn’t leave the book on a cruel cliffhanger where you have to wait a year for the next one. I also loved that whilst this book used elements that are generally used in fantasy, it also felt like nothing I had ever really read before, with the Wild West/Arabian setting and I love that the mythology felt different to anything I’d ever read before as I’ve never read anything with Djinn and it was really cool to learn about them.
I don’t really want to say much else because I don’t want to spoil anything, but all I can say is that if you love fantasy you must read this book. It’s a wonderful, vivid story with a great main character, great supporting characters, an amazing, unique world, with a setting that feels like it comes alive and a romance that is slow burn, beautifully drawn and realistic with genuine chemistry between the characters. It’s such a wonderful book and an amazing debut, I can’t wait to see where Alwyn Hamilton goes with this world from here! If you haven’t read it already, what are you waiting for? Read it and experience the desert come to life!
My Rating: 5/5
The next book I will be reviewing is Unbound by Neal Shusterman, a collection of short stories from the Unwind universe.