Hero At The Fall (Rebel of The Sands #3) Review

35406534Book: Hero At The Fall (Rebel of The Sands #3)

Author: Alwyn Hamilton

This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2018, I’ve been following this series since it started in 2016 and I was really excited to see how everything wrapped up. I’m sad to say I was really disappointed. I was expecting a really high stakes, high action finale and I’m not sure that I really got that. There was A LOT of buildup and the actual fight for the throne? Yup super short and not all that satisfying. This book could easily have been 200 pages shorter than it was and it showed. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Once, in the desert country of Miraji, there was a Sultan without an heir.

The heir had been killed by his own brother, the treacherous Rebel Prince, who was consumed by jealousy and sought the throne for himself.

Or so it was said by some. There were others who said that the Rebel Prince was not a traitor but a hero…

In the final battle for the throne, Amani must fight for everything she believes in, but with the rebellion in pieces, and the Sultan’s armies advancing across the desert plains, who will lead, who will triumph, who will live and who will die?

I liked that we started off with a character roundup, there are a lot of them, and it was good to have a reminder of who our major players were, who was alive, who was dead etc. It was also great to finally have a map of Miraji, even if I wish it had been a slightly more detailed one!

The pace was incredibly slow! For most of the book, it felt like absolutely nothing was happening. There were a few action scenes, but they were few and far between and didn’t land as well for me as I would have liked them too. But seriously, this book is 47 chapters long and for at least 40 of those, I felt like not much was really happening. If they had retrieved Ahmed and Shazad and co earlier then I feel like it might have worked a bit better, but they didn’t even come back into the story until 25 chapters in. I felt my eyes glazing over so many times and that is never a good sign! A lot of the chapters were overly long for me as well, which didn’t help matters.

I felt like I couldn’t really connect to the characters as well this time around. I loved Sam, he was the saving grace of this story for me, his sass gave it some much needed levity! Amani seriously annoyed me in this book. I mean I get that she’s not a leader and she’s been thrown into this position that she really has no business being in but the girl can’t make a decision to save her life (sometimes literally) and I feel like this book undid a lot of the character development that she went through in Traitor of The Throne. I felt like a lot of their strategies just didn’t make sense and they were putting themselves into danger for danger’s sake. I also felt, even though Amani and Jin were together more in this book, their romance wasn’t anywhere near as convincing as it was in the first book. I really missed Shazad as well, she was one of my favourite characters in the series and I loved her friendship with Amani, but she was hardly there in this book.

At first I wasn’t so keen on how the “myths” in this book were actually just the stories of the characters but it became clear by the end why Hamilton had chosen to do this and I think it just about paid off.

It felt like the plot relied on a lot of conveniences, there was some very annoying Deus-Ex-Machina and a lot of things seemed to work out just because the author needed them to, rather than that they were natural developments of the plot.

There were quite a few deaths, it’s war, it’s bound to happen, but I didn’t feel like many of them had any real impact. It was just like “Oh yeah, someone has died again, move onto the next thing” and I don’t know if that was because of how the character reactions were written or if I just didn’t feel connected enough to the characters, but they felt flat to me.

The characters I felt were the most interesting, Shazad, Leyla, Zaahir (a new Djinn introduced in this book), were the most underutilized in this book which I thought was a shame. The last book spent so much time building up the dynamic between Amani and the Sultan and I actually liked that, and enjoyed the Sultan as a villain so it felt like a shame that this book kind of discarded all of that.

We had characters returning from previous books, like Noorsham (who I’ll be honest, I thought was dead) and Amani’s aunt, but they kind of just popped up and then left again, didn’t have any real impact.

There was a sex scene between Jin and Amani and I have to say, I kept rolling my eyes the entire time. Look, I cannot claim to be anything of an expert on the subject, in fact I am as inexperienced as Amani, but I’m pretty sure that sex is not like explosions and magic? Isn’t it pretty messy? I don’t know, just doesn’t feel very realistic to me. The only thing that felt realistic was the clumsy way Amani hit her head on the lantern, because that is totally something I don’t know. Just for once I would like to read a sex scene in a book that isn’t like the BEST SEX EVER, especially when one of the partners is a virgin, because I don’t know about you guys, but I’m pretty sure I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to sex! I’d say it was weird that they had sex after basically avoiding each other for the entire book just because they thought they were going to die, but thinking about it, that seems like a pretty natural reaction.

The battle was kind of anticlimactic? It felt like the entire book and series had been building up to this moment and it just passed by in one chapter? Plus I’m still not entirely sure what happened? I was expecting the whole thing to go out with a bang and it was more of a fizzle. The last chapter acted as an epilogue of sorts and I’m not entirely sure how I felt about it. On the one hand, it was nice to see how all the characters ended up, but on the other, I felt it was a little long and I didn’t necessarily need to see where everyone was 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years from then. I could have pictured that for myself.

Overall, this was a lacklustre finale, to a series that had a ton of potential, but didn’t necessarily reach all of it. Still, this is Alwyn Hamilton’s first series and I’m sure that as she writes more, the potential that was shown in this series will be fully reached. I’m just disappointed that I didn’t love this final book as much as I had wanted to.

My Rating: 3/5

BECHDEL TEST: FAIL-It truly pains me to say this, but any conversation between the named female characters in this book (and there are more than two) always comes back to a man, whether it’s Jin, or Ahmed or the Sultan.

My next review will be of Language of Thorns, which I will have for you very soon as these are April reviews I’m catching up on that I didn’t have time to write in April because of my exams.

 

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Traitor To The Throne (Rebels of The Sands #2) Review (e-ARC)

traitor-to-the-throne Book: Traitor To The Throne (Rebel of The Sands #2)

Author: Alwyn Hamilton

Published By: Faber & Faber

Expected Publication: 2nd February

Format: e-book

I received this book for free via Netgalley, as always, this in no way affected my opinion of this book.

As always, thanks to Netgalley and Faber and Faber for allowing me to read this book.

As many of you know (or you will know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while), I absolutely loved Alwyn Hamilton’s debut novel, Rebel of The Sands, it was one of the best books I read last year and so naturally I was incredibly excited when it came up on Netgalley and “wished” for it. I wasn’t expecting to get it (usually these things never work out for me!) but I did.

I’m not going to lie, my expectations for this book were high after how great Rebel of The Sands was and I’m not sure that they were entirely met. Traitor To The Throne definitely suffers from some “middle book syndrome”, a lot of it is about political manoeuvrings, and a great deal is set in the harem in the Sultan’s palace, so the pacing is a little off for quite a large portion of the book, the start was engaging, so was the end, but there was quite a large portion in the middle that seemed to lag a bit which I wasn’t entirely keen on.

I appreciated that there was a character recap at the start of the book, because there’s quite a lot of characters and you tend to forget some of them between books, so that was a welcome addition. I also liked that the first chapter acted as kind of a recap for the last book, as not everyone has the chance to reread the first book before the sequel comes out! It also worked well due to the six month time gap between the books, the first chapter kind of catches you up with everything that’s happened so you’re not just thrown straight in the deep end.

The stakes were definitely a lot higher in this book and the plot was more complex than in the first book which I appreciated, although as I said previously, I did feel like the political manoeuvrings kind of bogged the pacing of the book down a little in the middle of the book.

I still really loved Amani, her powers are awesome, she’s still such an amazing, strong, brave, feisty female character and I liked that we got to see her grown more as a person in this book, she’s no longer this selfish desert girl that she was in the first book, she clearly cares so much about everyone in the rebellion and she’s willing to take risks to save everyone, not just herself now. She’s without her powers for a considerable portion of the book and it’s interesting to see how this develops her character as a strategist rather than just the warrior that we saw in the first book.

I appreciated that we got to learn more about Amani’s family in this book, we get to meet her aunt (her other one, not the one she lived with in Dustwalk) and Shira reappears which I liked because I didn’t feel that relationship was really explored enough in the first book, and it really gets more developed here, which was great. We also get to meet her Djinni father and get more backstory on her mother, which was pretty cool.

The setting of the book wasn’t quite as captivating as the first, we’re still in Miraji of course, but as much of it is set in the palace, it doesn’t have quite the same desert magic as the first one did (though ironically we do get a lot of magic in this book!).

I liked that we got to see even more of the mythology of the world in this book, that was very cool because it’s such a unique mythology, given that Djinn are not common in fantasies, so I felt like it really added something to the story having the mythology interspersed within it. We also had a wedding in this book and a new Mirajin festival, Auranzeb, so it was interesting seeing the customs for those. We also get to learn more about Miraji’s neigbouring countries, Albis, Gamanix and Xicha which I liked.

I really loved the new characters who were introduced, particularly Sam, a new addition to the rebellion, he’s this charming, cheeky thief who’s been trading on Amani’s reputation and it was so fun to see the two of them interact (don’t worry, they’re only friends, there is no love triangle here) and see him integrate into the rebellion. He has an interesting backstory too which I liked and his “power” is so cool (he’s not a Demdji, he’s a Faye, which is a Northern version of Djinn), he can walk through walls, which I thought was awesome! We also get to meet a lot of the Sultan’s sons, the most important being Rahim, who joins the rebels side. He didn’t make too much of an impression on me, but I imagine he’ll develop more in the third book. There are various members of the harem that we meet as well, but they’re not particularly important!

We also finally get to meet the Sultan! He was everything I wanted him to be, a twisted, complex, dark character. I liked that Hamilton did not take the easy way out and make the Sultan completely evil, he feels that he is doing what is right for his country and there is a logic to his decisions, which makes him even more scary! I appreciated how clever and manipulative the Sultan was, it made the payoff at the end of the book all the better!

There was the occasional spelling and punctuation error, but since I read an uncorrected proof, I’m sure this was just a case of that and it will have been fixed in the final version.

One slight niggle I had was that not all the chapters were named. I get that it was meant to show a difference between chapters talking about Djinni myths/character backstories, but it’s just a pet peeve of mine when authors name some of their chapters and not others. Either name them all or don’t name at all people!

I did miss Jin in this book. He and Amani are apart for most of the book, and whilst I appreciated this because it allowed Amani a chance for growth and development on her own, and understood it because Amani was in the palace for most of the book, I still missed him and would have liked to see him more. There are still some cute moments for them as a couple (including a very frustrating almost sex-scene!) but I would have liked to have just seen a tad more of Jin.

I still really love Shazad and Amani’s friendship, although again, we don’t get to see too much of them working together because of the set up of this book. In fact I would have loved to see more Shazad in general because I really love her (and totally ship her and Sam!).

There were a lot of twists and turns and unexpected things happening through the book, which I loved, basically the entire last ten or so chapters are just one big twist and I was on the edge of my seat through them. Without all of the slightly tedious political manoeuvrings before, they never would have worked, so whilst they did seem boring at the time, I appreciated what they built up to.

Overall, despite the fact that the book suffered from some pacing issues in the middle, I still really enjoyed it! Amani is a fantastic main character, the plot was more complex this time than in Rebel of The Sands, so whilst it might not have had the same on the edge of your seat action, it has more depth, there is more character development, more world building and a very exciting conclusion. It was a very solid addition to the trilogy and has me on the edge of my seat waiting for Book Three!

My Rating: 3.5/5 (the slow middle meant that this just wasn’t quite a 4)

My next review will be of my most recent read, The Invisible Library, by Genvieve Cogman.

 

 

 

Rebel of The Sands (Rebel of The Sands Trilogy #1) Review

rebel of the sands

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.