Many thanks to the folks at Uppercase Box for sending me a copy of this book! I meant to get a couple more book reviews out of the way before moving on to this one, but seeing as I just finished it and managed to whip something up pretty quick, I figured it was as good a time as any to share my thoughts on Rebel of the Sands.
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.
Hamilton offers a rich and fascinating premise inside a desert land seeped in folklore. There is so much detail in the text, with truly mesmerizing stories of Djinni, Skinwalkers, Nightmares, and ghouls – the mythical history of the immortal First Beings that shaped the lives of the mortal people who work in mines and factories under relentless heat and sunlight. It was easy to get through the story on the writing alone, and the landscape she paints a picture of is done with much skill. I really admire the attention to detail she put into the wide expanse of desert lands, and each new place Amani and Jin visited really came to life within each page. I only wish the characters and the story itself had been as well thought out.
The whole time I was reading, I couldn’t figure out what this book was about. Is this a Middle Eastern fantasy or a Western novel? I’m gonna go with Western, with the way the story progressed. What is the story? A sharpshooting girl who longs to escape the oppressive town she was raised in, and find her own way in the big city? For about 6 chapters that’s what I thought, and then it turned into a gun-slinging girl and a foreign merc/pirate/stalker/guy who can also shoot a gun running from the law, and THEN it was two teenagers who I guess are in love now helping to fight a rebellion. Oh, and now there are also a bunch of half-Djinni kids with super powers. The plot was all over the place – and yet, nothing really happened. Most of the book was honestly spent walking through the desert and occasionally getting into trouble because the town they stopped for water in is where the bad guy lives, or they had to jump out of a train because the bad guy was riding it (I swear this happened at least twice. Maybe three times.) Events and characters you think are going to be important literally get washed away by the sand. There were so few memorable things about this book. It’s pretty, and it’s not terribly written, but it was as dry and boring as the desert they spent too many pages trudging through.
Still pretty interested in the whole Djinni thing? I’d recommend picking up The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury, a fascinating retelling of the story of Aladdin. Digging the Middle Eastern vibe, but not the Western aspect? Give The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh a shot, which I reviewed (and highly enjoyed) last month. Feeling the Western trend more? Try starting fresh and sandless with Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee. Look out for my list of April books to review coming up next week!