Review: Rebel of the Sands - Alwyn Hamilton

Rebel Of The Sands
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Series: Rebel of the Sands #1
My rating: {★★★★☆}

YA Fantasy
Published March 8th 2016 by Viking Books for Young Readers

Source: Borrowed
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 have to confess, it took me a few tries to get started on this book: I read and re-read the first page probably five times having put down the book each time before. What eventually got me going was imagining a proper western drawl while reading - and then I was off and I never looked back.

There is such a western vibe to the prose - I really did enjoy that after getting into it. The atmosphere that this alone built made this book well worth reading for this fantasy addict.

What I wasn't expecting was for this book to be so all-encompassing, so gritty with such a broad world. It was like the Wild West meets the Middle East with a huge fantasy spin - and it was PERFECTION. It's not something that I could ever have imagined before I read it, and yet Alwyn Hamilton pulled it off.

Amani is such a special character and I fell in love with her immediately. She is just so tough and determined with such an untameable spirit and the sort of female lead that you want to read more about. She is infused with so many characteristics and so many real and vivid emotions and the decisions she makes (although sometimes truly frustrating!) are ones that you can easily imagine a real person making and this just makes her that much more relatable and authentic. She also had some great character development throughout the book and I can't wait to see what happens in the sequel.

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.
The love interest is Jin, and I also really enjoyed him as a character. He's witty and charming and astute and it's hard not to root for him. I love that the romance aspect was kept quite clean and simple in this first book and it's a bit of a slow burn. I hope to see it featured more in the next book though!

She turned to Jin now, sprawled by the fire, his hat pulled over his eyes. “I can tell you’re awake. Are you coming with us?”
He sighed, tipping his hat backward. “Yeah, yeah. Just trying to get some sleep before going to near certain death.”
Rebel of the Sands is a fast paced adventure that has an ending that left me satisfied and yet wanting more. It is both fun and exciting but also deals in a deeper level of political deceptions and cultural disparities.