Genres: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Mythology
Series: Rebel of the Sands #1
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Source: My shelves
Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic. For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned, or female.
Amani Al’Hiza is all three. She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can’t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she’s destined to wind up wed or dead.
Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she’s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she’d gallop away on mythical horse—or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew.
Rebel of the Sands reveals what happens when a dream deferred explodes—in the fires of rebellion, of romantic passion, and the all-consuming inferno of a girl finally, at long last, embracing her power.
I’ve had this book on my shelf for the better part of over two years. Back then, it was Big News in the book community, and I was intrigued! Admittedly, I purchased it mostly because of how gorgeous the cover was. But! Also several recommendations have been sent my way, so I assumed I’d enjoy it.
And I certainly did. I started Rebel of the Sands late before bed, and read 139 pages before I literally couldn’t stay awake any longer.
The story follows Amani, a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim and the willingness and determination to go far in life… if only her impoverished situation and the narrow-minded, oppressive desert town didn’t have anything to say about it. Not to mention, she’s female, which is just one more strike against her.
“The world makes things for each place. Fish for the sea, Rocs for the mountain skies, and girls with sun in their skin and perfect aim for a desert that doesn’t let weakness live.”
But when Amani’s escape plans lead her right into the clutches of a mysterious boy with a penchant for secrets and blowing things up, one thing leads to another until Amani finds herself in the center of the resistance of the Rebel Prince.
I do really love a good story of rebellion. And Ms. Hamilton did a wonderful job. The world-building was excruciatingly vivid – I swore I could feel the sand on me while I was reading – and the twinkling romance was just enough to sweep me off my feet. I found this one wildly entertaining and full of a vivaciousness that made it incredibly hard to put down.
Although that could have been Amani herself.
“You are this country, Amani. More alive than anything ought to be in this place. All fire and gunpowder, with one finger always on the trigger.”
Although she was dressed as a boy for most of the novel, Amani’s character exploded with personality and irresistible energy, even when she was supposed to be in disguise. She radiated life and danced across the page, taunting everyone to keep up with her. She was a fun character; impulsive, assertive, and full of heart.
She really kept me on my toes, I know she had Jin, the aforementioned mysterious boy, on his toes as well. They were so much fun together, and the romance was just light enough to be sweet and affectionate rather than all-consuming. He was the cautious voice of reason, but even he’d just smile indulgently, grab her hand, and follow her wherever she wanted to go.
He told me not to do anything stupid. But it was damned stupid of them to leave a window open in the stables. And I’d be damned stupid if I didn’t take advantage of it.
The plot itself and the writing were perfectly crafted, but one of my favorite parts was the dynamic side characters. The Rebel Prince and his crew were a family, and their personalities were loud and almost as full of life as Amani’s herself. They were loads of fun and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves when authors ignore side characters and make books just about the Hero&Heroine, with little room for everyone else. Although a large portion of the book was just the two of them, traveling through the desert, once they met this squad, I doubt we’ll see them leave very often.
Not to mention, the “found family” trope is one of my very favorites, and the diverse cast of Demdji, humans and other First Being’s. They made for a loud, boisterous family that fights each other just as hard as they love one another, which is, of course, my favorite kind of family, and made for a fun cast.
So this really was where the stories came to life. Heroes and monsters come to fight and die for the Rebel Prince.
I actually fell asleep, due to exhaustion and not a boring book, with only 20 pages remaining in the novel, and managed to finish it in the middle of the Fourth of July parade that goes by my house early in the morning. I sat out there in my lawn chair finishing the last 20 pages before the scream of sirens was undeniably telling me it was time to put my book down. But! I finished it during a gap in the parade, between the fire truck and the 5-year-old baton twirlers.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one! The last two books I read, Seafire and Rebel of the Sands, are both adventure books, and I really missed those types of books! Lately, I’ve read a lot of epic’s, urban fantasy and contemporary romances. But YA adventure books, which is usually the core of YA fantasy, I’ve been missing out on and really miss! Rebel of the Sands is the first book in a trilogy, and you can bet that I’ll be obtaining the other two books sometime very soon to read.
Have you read Rebel of the Sands? What did you think? What are some of your “found family” book recommendations? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!