Review: Traitor to the Throne

Way back in July (I am not kidding, it feels like eons ago!) I read Rebel of the Sands. It was a tale of magic and daring and mistaken identity and rebellion and I really enjoyed it, because if was about demijin and reclaiming the desert and gender issues. Traitor to the Throne is the sequel, following Amani, Jin, them demijin and the revolution for a New Dawn.

Just a little note about Amazon – for some reason the book is listed as “Traitor to the Throne (Rebel of the Sands Book 3)”. They lie. It’s book 2. It’s also amusing because apparently this is book 3 of a 2 book series. It’s actually book 2 of a 3 book series. Honestly amazon!

The last book ended with Amani and her newfound friends having reclaimed part of the desert, having let the destructive demijin Noorsham escape, and really kickstarted the revolution for the Rebel Prince. Traitor to the Throne picks up a year later, after Amani has been in an accident, after Jin has left, and when the rebels are relying on stories to keep the Sultan’s men out of the desert. But their period of ownership can’t last. When tricks expose the rebel camp, they scatter, and Amani finds herself powerless and friendless in the harem of the Sultan, trying to feed information outside the walls to help her rebellion. But she can’t help but question who will win, and whether it’s worth the fight.

What I liked about Amani was that she was damned powerful – not because of her awesome demijin powers (she didn’t even know about them until halfway through Rebel, but because she doesn’t take anything from anyone and she is a survivor. But it feels to me, the point of Traitor was to strip Amani of every shred of power and agency, presumably to go “oh look, isn’t she resourceful, doing all this without her powers or a gun” but Amani’s power was never in her guns it was in her guts, her willingness to do things. And this book made a big deal about Amani needing to be rescued. And, I don’t know, I got a bit annoyed at that.

The Sultan’s harem is a direct and fairly obvious contrast to the distrust but eventual family she found in the rebel camp, but bringing some old faces from the very start of the first book was kind of good, especially with seeing how their characters had developed independently of Amani (although I still can’t believe Tavid would go goon just because of Amani, give the guy some credit!). There were whole swathes of time where very little happened except Amani moaning about the people in the harem, or being “woe it me, I need to get out”. She was trapped though, to be fair, by her own powers.

The plot twist I saw coming from a mile off, so this was a fairly easy read, which after the awesomeness of the first book, felt a little disappointing. It was a good book. Reasonably well paced, completely stereotypical in the isolation of the hero thing, I like how the tales that Amani was bought up hearing were woven into the narrative – like Princess Hawa and her husband who fell together and the sun rose. These stories work on the premise of “every story had to start somewhere” and usually, Amani surmises, that somewhere was probably a demijin. The djinn are introduced a bit part characters as well. So, yey?

I still love the world, and how much everything feels like its tradition steeped in years of storytelling. The world building was what drew me into the first book, the characters made me stay and the plot was fairly good so the book struck Hala gold in my book. So, the world was still pretty awesome, and the same characters who I loved before were (mostly) there and meh to the plot. So it was still good, but less gold and more…. bronze? This metaphor got away with me. Let’s skip onto the summary.

Ok, I think I have to summarize this as a good book if the first book hadn’t been so good. It’s awfully hard being the second book in a trilogy – they’re ground setting books for the Final Chapter and can fall a bit flat because of that. This book did fall into that trap, but there has been a lot of new ground established. The fight is now out of the desert and into the capital city. The final stage has been set. And sometimes, the more “meh” the second book, the more absolutely freaking awesome the final book is, probably just by comparison really! So, I am holding out hope that the third book is excellent, but I am honestly quite happy just re-reading the first book, and leaving the series as a stand alone.

No news yet as to what/when the third book will be out, and considering Traitor was released in February 2017, its probably going to be a while. Watch this space.

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