Friday, March 18, 2016

look at her go: reviewin reviewin: rebel of the sands

Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1)
by: Alwyn Hamilton



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.

full review under the cut! 

 Hi everyone! After taking the last week off of blogging (and basically life, since I was on Spring Break), I am back and feeling rather refreshed. I hope that you are all having a smooth transition into springtime. The first book that I finished in the warmer weather is this: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton. And let me tell you guys: it was INCREDIBLE. I'd seen it on countless WoW's for months, read some really glowing reviews of it, and still it wasn't really on my radar. Despite having read a couple of really awesome westerns last year, I still tend to shy away from them. Then, on a whim, I decided to get the audiobook for this, and it was one of the most fun audiobooks I've ever listened to. I was laughing and cheering out loud as I drove around listening to this, probably looking like a crazy person, but having the absolute best time. This book is so interesting, complicated, funny, and gripping. I love the hybrid setting of the wild west and also like eastern (the wrath and the dawn-esque) influences. Totally brilliant. The characters, especially Amani and Jin, were just so easy to like, the world was well formed, and the conflicts kept me engaged. I would definitely recommend this book to someone who is looking for something different, because this was shockingly good, and it definitely makes my favorites list of 2016. 

The setting of this novel is super unique, and though I don't think that it would necessarily be everyone's favorite, I personally really enjoyed reading about it. I think that the setting fits these characters so well, the strange mix of western and eastern influences suits them and them alone. I certainly give props to Alwyn Hamilton for blending elements and making the setting work as well as she did. I also really enjoyed the fact that we got to travel pretty extensively through this created world with our main characters, because that really diversified and made the world seem more real to me. From Dustwalk to Ahmed's oasis, I alternately loved and despised the desert of Miraji. Also, not only was the setting interesting, but the fact that it was also populated with fantastic beings like djinns and ghouls. Everything that was going on here is just really different and fun, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved the world. 

Amani is a fabulous main character. I had a professor for fiction writing that told me that the worse decisions a character makes, the better the story will be, and Amani, to me, is a good example of this. She is brash and brave, and makes some controversial decisions throughout the book, but it was these moments where she makes the self-preserving, if not morally right, decision that drove the plot forward. I really liked the fact that Amani wasn't particularly concerned with anyone else's fate, at least at first. She's actually pretty selfish, and I don't know why, but I liked that. I liked that she just wanted to save her skin, not sacrifice herself for other people. Her situation and the intrinsic flaws in her character made me root for her from the very beginning. She's also *hilarious.* I love how quippy her dialogue is, especially when she is talking to Jin. I also liked the twist concerning her character at the end, when she and Jin meet up with the Rebels, and how, for the first time, she feels like she belongs, which then begins to change her character into someone who is willing to sacrifice herself for someone else. Her character growth is great, and the chemistry between her and Jin is MAGICAL. 

The rest of the characters in this book are awesome too, but Amani's brilliance kind of overshadowed the rest of them for me. Not that I didn't like them, just that she was *so great* that she's really far ahead of them. I especially liked Shazad and Jin. Shazad because, hello, kickass general's daughter who could never inherit his position in the army by nature of her gender, so she takes up her swords and throws in her lot with the accepting rebel prince. She's also a crazy good friend for Amani to have, and I was just so happy when they were bonding there at the end. Jin is our love interest, the mysterious foreigner who can't get used to the desert, crackshot, whip smart and positively swoony. For a while there, I thought that *he* was the rebel prince, but then it made a lot more sense that he was actually just his half-brother. There are some crazy messed up family dynamics in this book, but I liked how twisted it all was. I know a lot of people liked the last bit of this book because that is when Amani and Jin hooked up with the rebels, but I liked both halves of the story equally, because I loved how the first part, when they're on their own, set up their relationship really well. That being said, I absolutely can't wait to see what else happens with the rebels in the coming books.

This novel was paced amazingly well for me. We open on this crazy scene where Amani has disguised herself as a boy and entered into a shooting contest in order to win enough money to leave her small, stagnant, factory town behind. This first scene is great because it introduces us to Amani, her talents and her bravery, right off the bat; and also because the stakes are incredibly high. From this high-stakes, action-packed scene, we slow down a bit, and Hamilton lets us see into the world of this book, only to pick back up right at the point where we might possibly get bored. Its a really good balance of world building and action, and it just struck such an awesome chord with me. Also, the presence of magic and fantastic beings enriched, but didn't distract from, the main conflict, which I really appreciated. I think that the magic elements are going to come more into the main plot in the following novels though, which I am also really looking forward to.

The conflict in this novel was great because it was multifaceted. The primary one being that, for the better part of the novel, Amani and Jin are on their own in the desert, fleeing from the sultan's soldiers, who are trying to arrest them for treason. Then there is the fact that the sultan himself is corrupt and being controlled by another nation, populated by people who hate magic and want to rid Miraji of it: The Gallan. Then there is Ahmed, the Rebel Prince, who wants to take the throne and restore peace and prosperity to his homeland. Lastly, there is the conflict of the half-djinn, and the problem their powers can present, such as Noorsham, who is captured by the Sultan's army and capable of destroying entire cities. The conflicts are tangled with each other and connected, but not overwhelming, and I can just feel the potential in them for further installments in this world. 

I basically just fell in love with the weird hybrid setting, the brash and brave characters, and the beauty of the prose in this book. The romance was subtle but present, the conflicts were complex and sometimes not black and white, and the character growth was easily seen. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is even slightly interested! 


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