Title: Rebel of the Sands
Author: Alwyn Hamilton
Genre: Young Adult, Teen, Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
All in all, this was pretty darn good. I certainly didn't want to put it down. It has an intense and fast pace that keeps the pages turning and I was actually okay with our lead girl and her attitude (no special snowflake here). She's a strong, leading girl that understands choices and that sometimes you make crazy ones because you are no other way out. That doesn't make those choices wrong; they just are what they are.
I loved the Arabian setting and the feel and context given to the desert. As though it's a living breathing thing. Desert is a distinctly unique environment in that it's habitable for a short period of time. Where water is uninhabitable and most of is very habitable; desert is not unlike the Arctic in that you can survive but you will need supplies because it's mostly a barren wasteland. I hope that the kinds of sentiments, mirages and other things in the desert are truthful. I certainly felt like descriptions and sentiments helped me understand desert living a little better.
I know a little about Djinn. A mythological creature that appears in many Indian or Middle Eastern stories. They are cunning, not quite good or bad, and often have great magical powers. I loved the use of these creatures, and the unique twist on the lore and ability to bring magic into the story that Alwyn Hamilton uses. It's nice that we start out the book with a tiny bit of the desert magic and by the end it's full blown magic everywhere. I liked this because it allowed me to learn about the Djinn and learn to understand them as the story unfolded.
Step by Step
Hamilton has done something in Rebel in the Sands that all good fantasy authors understand and utilize well; she has built up the world around us from the eyes of our lead gal and brought in elements slowly. If you ever read Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule then you know what I mean. It's a genius way to bring a complex world that is very unknown (to most) and to slowly introduce factors like values, religion, magic and eventually the politics we all crave. Because, lets face it, politics what starts wars and makes our characters lives interesting.
This step by step introduction helped me feel a part of the desert world I am very unfamiliar with.
The Romantic Interest
I can't believe I'm going to say this... but I love Jinn. Just for being himself. And I don't mean in the fangirl, omg I want to marry him way, I mean I love him as a person. He's complex, troubled, and above all else, realistic. He's not perfect and he's not immediately in love with our lead gal (thank goodness!!). Romance and relationships are complex and if nothing else Hamilton has established this to be true.
An absolute A+ for character development and not writing a love troope fantasy novel like everyone seems inclined to do today.
So why only give 4 stars?
Sounds like I really enjoyed the Rebel in the Sands right? Which is true I did. It was a fun, entertaining read. But... it was missing something. I can't quite put my finger on it, and maybe it's that I didn't quite connect with our lead gal all the time, but something was missing. Unlike recent reads like Cinder, I wasn't immediately drawn to our gal and was very reluctant to put all my faith in her.
One could argue this is a good thing; but in the end it felt like something was off and it's the only thing I can identify that I didn't love. So I'm going with the theory that the lead gal needed to be more likeable (if that even makes sense).
I would definitely recommend this book to YA fantasy story lovers. I would buy it for someone as I think there's a lot to love here.
And as with many YA novels, if this was a girls first foray into the genre she'd likely think it's the most amazing book ever. As with nothing to compare it to (like the flooded market of fantasy YA out there these days) I could see this being a favourite of a teen.
So pick it up and read it. If only so you can experience the sand and desert setting.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.