Review: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton (Rebel of the Sands #1)


Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton // VBC ReviewRebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1)
Alwyn Hamilton
Published: Mar. 8, 2016 (Viking)
Purchase: Book Depository or Amazon
Review source: library

Reviewed by: Margaret

Rating (out of 5): 4.5 stars

When Amani was sixteen, her mother killed her father and was executed. In a few months, a year will have passed and she’ll be eligible for marriage. Her aunt and uncle are already making plans. But Amani’s not interested.

She enters a shooting competition dressed as a boy to win the money she’ll need to flee to the city. There, she meets a mysterious foreigner who helps her escape when everything goes wrong and the arena burns to the ground. And their second encounter lands her in even more trouble. Now Amani and Jin are on the run from the Sultan’s army. They travel across the desert by train, camel caravan and magical horse in an action-packed adventure.

Rebel of the Sands blends Western elements with Arabian Nights to create a unique fantasy world where soldiers carry a gun on one hip and a scimitar on the other. Amani comes from a place called Dustwalk at the far end of the country of Mirajin. I pictured it like a town in a typical Western film. The people there barely scrape by with what they earn at the country’s largest weapons factory.

Because of the factory and the nearby mine that supplies it, Dustwalk is covered in iron. Iron cancels magic, so Amani’s never seen most of her world’s mythical creatures. But she’s heard the stories about the Djinn, as well as Skinwalkers, Nightmares, and other Ghouls that inhabit the desert. And by the end of the book, she’ll realize that all of the stories are real.

I enjoyed watching Amani discover the world over the course of the book. She learns about magic and politics, as well as herself. I liked the way the magic is revealed in small doses, easing Amani into it along with the reader. I also liked the supporting cast, which includes a badass female commander, and blue shapeshifting twins. And I’m always a fan of political machinations, so I loved the Rebel Prince. I’m really excited to see what’s next for him.

Perhaps because it was the first fantasy western I read, I keep wanting to draw comparisons to Lila Bowen’s Wake of Vultures. (I seriously started outlining the imaginary term paper in my head.) There are some obvious similarities—teenaged heroines who dress as boys to escape oppressive small towns, for starters. But Rebel of the Sands has a much more straightforward (no pun intended) romance plot. And while it has wonderful action scenes, it’s not nearly as graphic. (I think that’s what makes RotS a young adult and WoV an adult novel.) Plus once Amani left Dustwalk, I thought the book lost a lot of its Western flavor. Still, I expect fans of one would enjoy the other.

Rebel of the Sands is the first book in a trilogy. I’m looking forward to following Amani and her friends on the rest of their journey.

Sexual content: kissing

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