In Rebel of the Sands Amani Al’Hiza wants nothing more than to flee her bleak home town of Dustwalk. She gets her chance when a mysterious foreigner turns up and she gets a chance to run away with him. As they flee through a desert full of magic and hunted by the Sultan’s army Amani learns that there is more to the stranger than she thought, and finds herself in the middle of a rebellion.
Rebel of the Sands had a lot of potential, but I don’t think it quite used all of it. I loved Amani as a heroine, she knows what she wants and fights tooth and nail to achieve it. Plus she is amazing with a gun, which is one of my (many) ultimate weaknesses (I have a thing for (sharp) shooters. I might have mentioned it before).
The world building was amazing, and I loved reading about a world that combines magical and mythological elements with semi-modern weapons. Plus it was refreshing to read something in a setting that diverts from the “standard” European setting we see so often in fantasy. As a German I can’t comment on the accuracy of the world building and whether Hamilton did justice to the culture she was inspired by, but here is a review by a Saudi Arabian blogger and here is one from a Moroccan blogger.
The places where Rebel of the Sands was severely lacking for me was the character development and parts of the plot. There was an entire long period of time just glossed over with a paragraph or two, which meant there was serious development missing between Amani and Jin. It might as well be that they’re at a point where their friendship is as deep as Amani’s actions suggest, but it just doesn’t feel like it. Glossing over almost two months of traveling together means it feels like only a few days have passed, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I would risk my life for someone I’ve only known for a few days. Up to that point Amani’s decisions made sense to me, but from that point on, it just felt a little unrealistic for me. It feels like all of a sudden and without good reason she’s willing to change her plans, and just… no. I would have loved to see more of how the relationship between Amani and Jin developed.
Also I have to say that the story isn’t the most original. As much as I like the characters and the world building, the story itself isn’t anything special. It’s pretty much your average badass girl heroine without parents joining a revolution narrative, which just gets really boring after a while.
Nevertheless this is a promising debut and I’m sure Hamilton has more to show in the future.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3 Stars)
Publication Date: 4 February 2016
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Page Count: 358
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
“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 an unforgiving, dead-end town. It’s not the place to be poor or orphaned or female. And yet Amani Al’Hiza must call it ‘home’.
Amani wants to escape and see the world she’s heard about in campfire stories.
Then a foreigner with no name turns up, and with him she has the chance to run.
But the desert plains are full of dangerous magic. The Sultan’s army is on the rise and Amani is soon caught at the heart of a fearless rebellion…
An epic story of swirling desert sands, love, magic and revolution.