It’s got a fair amount of fantasy and buckets of ‘sass’* so what did I think of Rebel of the Sands?
*So long as we’re aware that I don’t mean ‘sass’ as in ‘lazy character writing’ or ‘thinly veiled way of saying the equally cliché ‘strong female character”
She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.
Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from.
Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him… or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.
I picked this book up on a whim in my local library because I’d seen a few people mention it in the blogosphere and it seemed like the kind of thing I might be interested in. I’m glad I did because it was one of those nice reads that you can sit down and devour in one sitting. In essence, it has all the ingredients of a YA novel that makes me happy: a unique and interesting setting, a rebellion of sorts and a likeable but not perfect main character.
What I found really enjoyable was the elements that felt in essence very Western. Not meaning western as in the cultural indicator but as in Casablanca, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and other such films. I mean, none of it is exclusively Western in any sense but it had a bit of that vibe to it with the trains, pistols and sandy-ness. Maybe that’s just me. It reminded me a little of Den of Shadows which is a far less well known book released earlier this year.
Amina, our ‘strong female character’ is actually that. While she gets swept up in a little bit of a romance for…quite a bit of the book, she’s not solely focussed on romance as a motivation so it doesn’t feel too annoying. Primarily, she’s a girl in a small town who wants, nay needs, to get out. I think quite a lot of people can find a kindred spirit in that particular story.
The fantasy element is threaded throughout the book. Unlike, for example, Renée Ahdieh’s Flame in the Mist you don’t feel cheated on the amount of fantasy there is. While Amina isn’t firing lasers out of her eyeballs or controlling weasels with her mind from page one you get the feeling that this world has a low level of magic going on at all times. It’s balanced well, is what I’m trying to say. Magic isn’t the norm but it is understood and people deal with it as and when it appears.
There are a few really powerful moments in this book, as is usually the case for these kind of ‘journeying’ stories, interspersed with some great description of the travelling as we cross the desert with Amina. This book was incredibly well written (in my opinion) and while I know some people were less than pleased with the sequel I have nabbed it for my own bookshelf and you should expect a review in the next couple of months.
My rating: 5/5 stars
What say you? Are you one of the many who have read and reviewed this already? Is it something you’ve been meaning to get to? Let me know in the comments below!
I look forward to it!