Author: Alwyn Hamilton
Pages: 314 (Ebook)
Publisher: Faber and Faber Ltd
Release Date: February 4, 2016
Source: I received this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
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I was beyond excited when I got accept to review this book. The blurb sounds awesome, the cover is sooo beautiful and the sequel just came out so I definitely had to read it – and so should you.
Amani is just another girl in the dead-end town of Dustwalk. She can shoot better than any man, she is fearless and she dreams big, but she’s still a girl and her only choice is to get wed or die. She is having none of it. Amani is determined to flee and get to the city she and her mother so often dreamed about. Winning a shooting contest could be her ticket out of Dustwalk but events much greater than her hinder her plans. She never though she would end up running from the Sultan’s army with a complete stranger who is wanted for treason. And neither did she imagine that she was so much more than just a girl with a gun.
Usually the first chapters of a book are really boring with long descriptions and lots of info dumps. Don’t expect that in Rebel of the Sands. The start of this book was so enticing and mysterious and so full of action that it grabbed me from the very first words:
“They said the only folk who belonged in Deadshot after dark were the ones who were up to no good. I wasn’t up to no good. Then again, I wasn’t exactly up to no bad, neither.”
Interesting or what? I read about 65% of this book in a single day. Every time I tried to put it down it keep whispering my name, begging me to read it and I gave in to the temptation.
Amani was such an interesting and well-developed character. She was really strong-willed and smart – she was a proper bad-ass and I absolutely loved her. Although she was pretty awesome with a gun, it wasn’t only her shooting skills that made her amazing, but also her sassiness. The setting of this book was highly based on Middle Eastern culture, not only the landscape and the magic part (which was inspired in Arabian mythology), but also the sexism towards women. Rebel of the Sands kind of shows two perspectives: women in the Sultan’s harems and women in poor, underdeveloped towns. They weren’t treated all that differently. Their voice had no importance, it was their fault if they were raped and their punishment was death, and their dreams were worthless. This is the world of Amani and she still has a smart mouth. She’s not afraid of speaking out, of using her skills in a land where she should be an obedient housewife, not a Blue-Eyed Bandit. I think that Amani really symbolises change, a break from a sexist world. She showed what woman were capable of and with all the talk that has been going on about woman empowerment, I think that this book has a really valuable message.
Nevertheless, what I actually loved more about Amani was that she wasn’t perfect. She made some bad choices – well, you can’t really call them bad choices, but they weren’t exactly the right ones either. She left her friends behind several times, but those *mistakes* actually made room for improvement and I think that it allowed for a good character arc.
I was also a bit afraid that there was going to be insta-love between Jin and Amani and I really did not want the story to go like that. Luckily, my fear was unfounded because I think that their relationship was really cute and it blossomed beautifully with a bit of awkwardness in between which I believe is perfectly normal taking into account what they went through. Jin was also a really interesting character and I actually believe that most characters in this book were complex and very well-developed.
Although there was a lot of information in this book regarding culture and magic, I never felt that there were info dumps. All the information was so beautifully integrated in the story that the reader was never bombarded with tons of facts and names. I really have to congratulate Alwyn Hamilton for her awesome writing skills!
And the plot twist… There is such a HUGE plot twist in this book that I never saw it coming, but it is so well explained and then they make some references to things that happened before in the book and I just felt so stupid for not having realised it before! It was so obvious, but at the same time it was not! It wasn’t one of those plot twist that came out of nowhere, but it also wasn’t one of those that you figured out from the start, but the author kept pretending you were too stupid to understand the clues. Alwyn gave the reader almost all the information. She just kept a few details until moments before the revelation. Details that seemed unimportant but made such a huge difference!
Amani does spend a big part of the book dressed up as a boy – after all that was the safest way for her to cross the country. To be more precise she spends two months crossing the desert dressed up as a boy. Now, pretending to be a boy for a few days can’t be that hard, but it is actually mentioned that she had to be careful with her voice. In those two months, didn’t she ever forget to talk like a boy? And most importantly – it can’t be that easy to pretend to be a boy for two months in a desert taking into account some hygiene issues (if you know what I mean). I think that stories where girls pretend to be boys tend to have this problem because the writers kind of get away from those personal details that actually make a hell of a difference.
Now, I do feel a bit guilty for giving 4 stars to this book. i probably deserved 5. Like I said, I read 65% of this book in a day, which corresponds to the part when they arrived in the refugee camp, but then I had to go on a small hiatus because of exams. When I resumed reading it, I just didn’t like it as much. I felt that everything that happened in the refugee camp and after just needed more character development. A lot of things happen to Amani here and at the same time I think that the reader doesn’t get enough of her thoughts and feelings. One thing that actually surprised me is that she flew on a giant roc, but there’s no mention of what it felt like. For a girl who never took her feet of the ground, it must have been really scary, but there’s no mention of that. I already flew on planes, but I would certainly be very terrified of flying in a roc. Alwyn only mentioned that they flew on a roc to get to a certain place, but I wanted more on Amani’s fear of heights, on how she almost threw up or nearly fell of the roc.
Plus, I think that all that battle part in the end was so confusing. There were so many things going on and I understand that we were seeing things through Amani’s perspective so we couldn’t really get a clear view of the whole battle. But by the time it was over I was like – so, are all the enemies dead? Cause I didn’t really get that part.
Maybe I’m not being exactly fair on this last part of the book because, do to my hiatus, I had forgotten some details (like the name of all the cities) so I was a bit lost on the story while I was trying to catch up with all the new things happening. If I had read it all in one sitting maybe I would think differently.
Nevertheless, I think that Rebel of the Sands was an incredible story. Alwyn Hamilton did a great job and I really loved her writing style – it is fluid and interesting and all the information is incredibly well integrated in descriptions and dialogues. I loved the setting, the culture, the characters and I can’t wait to read the sequel to this book, Traitor to the Throne. Expect a new review soon!