It seems like this book has exploded everywhere in the booktube and blogging community and I’m so glad I get to review it because it was a fast-paced desert adventure! At first I was hesitant about the setting, because I read A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston and really didn’t enjoy it, but everyone raved about The Wrath and the Dawn, which I’m yet to read and after reading this will have to read straight away!
There’s just something about the mysteries of the desert that make it the perfect backdrop for a magical fantasy. Alwyn Hamilton has such a beautiful way with words that Ipulled me in from the very beginning. I swear, if I didn’t have university commitments I would have read this in one sitting.
P L O T
Rebel of the Sands begins with a shooting competition. It’s tense, it’s taboo and our main girl Amani has disguised herself as a boy to become the Blue-Eyes Bandit to compete. I don’t know about you but I can’t resist a good ‘disguised as a boy’ plot line. She needs to win to get the cash price so she can flee her wicked Uncle who wants to marry her off. Amani didn’t account for a stranger laced with intrigue to appear and suddenly she’s swept up in a race across the desert and a truth that will make her question everything she thought she knew.
C H A R A C T E R S
Amani – what a badass. And I mean an actual badass. Not one of those faux ones that some YA fantasy tries to fob you off with where they’re actually pretty weak and bad at making decisions. (See Fayre from A Court of Thorns and Roses) Amani was so tough and all together a brilliant protagonist. I can’t wait to hear more of her strong voice in the sequels. Her character development was great, too!
Jin – he’s sly and mysterious especially when it comes to his family history! Again I seriously loved his character. He was the perfect balance to Amani and they definitely work well as a pair. Luckily, there wasn’t too much romance sub-plot in the first book, and I would’ve been annoyed if it had gone any further than it had, this will hopefully be a slow burn.
There was so many characters (the other rebels) by the end that I’m excited to learn more about in the sequel!
W O R L D B U I L D I N G
The desert does some of the world building in itself, but there’s quite a lot of political and magical information that we need to know to get to grips with the world, like the jealous prince turned rebel prince and the Djinn and their demi-djinn offspring of magical wonderment.
There is an excellent sense of space and time in Rebel of the Sands. There might not be a map, but there’s quite a bit of trekking so you can find points of references on Amani’s journey. The integration of information was amazing, I particularly liked it in the first quarter of the book because the way it was interspersed really helped to build tension and the whole stories round the campfire was a really effective vehicle for letting the reader know what’s what.
P A C I N G
I was ENCHANTED by the beginning. I was so invested in these characters already. The middle was a little slow but the last third was punctuated by so many big reveals that it really drives forward to the end. Some I could guess but others took me completely by surprise, which is exactly the right mix! It’s good to think you’re on top of things, but a surprise here and there to stop it from being predictable is always appreciated. I didn’t want it to end, I needed MORE.
V E R D I C T
Rebel of the Sands is definitely something special, so I gave it 4 stars. It kept me interested and excited. And, even better, now I know I liked this one, I won’t be so nervous about starting other arabic- inspired books! The fact that this is UKYA is also a significant bonus!