So, basically, a few weeks ago I trawled my way through the kindle e-books deals, and found this: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton. I actually can’t seem to find the full e-book on amazon though, so I guess it was a deal through the kindle itself?? Who knows. Anyway, I liked the premise and I just wanted something a little fantastical to add to my growing collection of fantastical novels. This didn’t disappoint.
This is the story of Amani, a young woman with a gun at her hip and a desperate desire to get out of her tiny little backwater town of Dustwalk. They are at the edge of the desert, where First Beings can walk freely causing havoc everywhere. So Amani decides to enter a shooting competition with enough prizemoney to get out of Dustwalk forever. There she meets the Foreigner, a man who doesn’t fit, and after they save each others lives, he gives her the chance to run. But where? The deserts full of danger, even for a girl with sand in her bones, and there are stirrings of a rebellion against the Sultan, but from which side?
Set in a Arabian Nights style Western with gunslinging, cross dressing and fighting. Amani has to dress as a man in order to hold any sort of sway over other people, even though she is the best shot in the desert. She gets angry at it, frequently and justifiably. There is magic in the desert, tales of djinn and their offspring who have special gifts and are hunted viciously by the Gallan army (an army that are in cahoots with the Sultan and are pretty nasty peeps). There are horses made of sand that can only be tamed by women. Lots of awesome folklore, lots of awesome imagery, lots of pain, honestly a thousand and one Arabian nights was a favourite book as a wee one, and this fantasy novel managed to combine some of my favourite ideas with an epic tale of adventure and belonging.
Amani is frustrated, she is frustrated by the restrictions imposed on her by her gender. She is angry, and she is frustrated. When she meets the Foreigner, Jin, she is desperate to escape Dustwalk like a physical need. It’s a backward, oppressive town and she is sick of being played for a fool. Escaping with Jin becomes her only option. Amani is brash and she does things impulsively, but its hard not to like her as a narrator. Because Amani is the narrator, Jin is a bit of a puzzle, but the surprise! Plot Twist! was a little expected after they’d spent some time in the desert together. The other surprise! Plot Twist! was a little less expected purely because I wanted to know if I was right as to who Jin’s brother is.
There is a rebellion brewing, the Rebel Prince turned up to fight for his father’s (the Sultan) crown in a totally legitimate setting and then ending up having to run into the desert and start a full-blown people led revolution. Amani isn’t too impressed by this, she literally just wants to get away. But the revolution is brewing and turns out to be way more complex than initially thought.
Rebel of the Sands was an enjoyable read. I mean, it wasn’t top ten, I’m not doing a dozen exclamation points after telling you that you should be adding this to your TBR pile. The premise was good, combining egalitarian politics and young people overthrowing the old system with the oldest magic in the desert, and the stories of Djinn. The characters were likable and simultaneously annoying. It was a great alternative to the slew of western dystopian YA fiction. I enjoyed this book, I’m not sure I’m willing to drop a fiver on the sequel just yet.