Thursday, June 23, 2016

Review: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Title: Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands, #1)

Author: Alwyn Hamilton

Rating: 3.5 Stars

I am so utterly surprised by this book. I didn't even add it to my shelves for the longest time because previous Westerns that I'd read, while not bad, had never quite blown my mind. And though Rebel of the Sands was making waves across the blogosphere, I've never been one to agree with the masses. So, against all odds I find myself admitting that I really, actually, enjoyed Rebel of the Sands. I was swept up in its breakneck pace, its daring protagonist, the romance, and the world-building. Now, that's not to say that this is a perfect novel--because, believe me, it has its share of flaws--but it was surprisingly better than I anticipated.

The Good:
- Amani, our heroine, is such a badass. We first meet her as the Blue-Eyed Bandit, dressed up as a boy and competing in a shooting tournament. Amani's parents have passed away and all she wants is to escape the home of her aunt and uncle, both of whom wish to marry her off soon. But Amani has plans to escape herself--all if she can win this shooting tournament. But things don't quite go as planned and she finds herself aiding Jin, a foreign mercenary who escapes her small town with her and the two become unexpected allies as they navigate the desert.

Amani is strong-willed and stubborn and though she isn't anything unique in the world of YA heroines, I thoroughly enjoyed her voice nevertheless. She is clever and cunning and though she isn't loyal, her growth over the course of the novel is admirable. Her romance with Jin, the swoon-worthy hero of our tale, isn't quite a slow-burn but it's also not insta-love. It's well-timed, considering their situation, and I enjoyed watching as their relationship grew and developed and changed with time.

-The world Hamilton (OK, is it just me or is it officially unfair for anyone's last name to be Hamilton because now I officially want to burst into song because #LinManuelMiranda) creates is unique and, in some ways, bizarre. It's like the Wild West, with shoot-outs and small towns and mythical horses who ride like the wind. But, it's also infused with Middle Eastern folklore of the djinn and magic and princes fighting for their throne. Honestly, I'd say it works. I really enjoyed the folklore aspect and the world-building is quite well-done. It isn't as descriptive as I'd have liked and I certainly have questions that I want answers to, but I suspect that they will all be answered in due time. This world is far more unique than that of Under the Painted Sky or Walk on Earth a Stranger so of all the Westerns I've read, Rebel of the Sands has proved to be the most exciting.

The Bad:
-A slew of new characters is introduced to us rather late in the novel and they all become important characters in their own right. Sadly, I found this to be a little too much, a little too late. I wanted more of Amani and Jin while Hamilton was frantically trying to establish strong connections between Amani and all these new characters. I just don't think it worked and I finished this novel feeling excited about the prospect of future novels and the upcoming plot lines but also wanting to know these new characters, who still felt new.

-In retrospect, the pacing of this book could have been a lot better. I think I would have enjoyed this considerably more had Jin and Amani's time together been sped up or cut down a bit to allow for the second-half--which is where the real plot begins and Amani discovers a lot, both about herself and Jin--to have had more of an influence on the novel as a whole. Instead, I primarily remember this as being a book about Amani and Jin trekking across the desert--which was a great deal of fun, but I feel ill-equipped for this sequel. Not to mention, there are so many characters introduced even in the first-half that we don't get a lot of closure with or follow-up on. This book is mainly Amani and Jin and while that worked, I think attention to other relationships in the novel would have gone a long way.

I'm worried about the synopsis of the sequel, only because I wonder at a possible love triangle (if that's true, i.e. if anyone who gets an ARC can confirm this for me, I will not be picking up the sequel). But, if the sequel remains drama-free then I am more than ready to further explore the political machinations of this world and return to Amani's kick-ass narration for another thrilling adventure. If you've read a loved a lot of previous Westerns, I'm not sure this novel will introduce too many new concepts to the genre but if you've been relatively unimpressed, so far, then give this one a shot. It's better than I expected, and that's saying something for sure.


  1. Now I worry about the love triangle too, but hey maybe it wont happen :)

  2. Oh now I'm curious. I don't hate triangles... well, I don't hate them as much as most people, but they aren't my fave trope. This sounds different enough for me to try it and be curious about it. I don't mind an uneven pacing as long as it doesn't draw you out of the story. Will add this one to my wishlist and cross my fingers for no triangle! :D

  3. I'm worried about the love triangle, too. Oh man. I would be so disappointed if that would be the case. :(

  4. Sounds fun, but I wouldn't pick up the sequel if there's a love triangle either, Keertana! Wonderful review! :)

  5. Good things and some not so good but the heroine and the work look nice. Maybe.

  6. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this one for the most part. I really HOPE there won't be a love triangle in the next one. I haven't read this one - Westerns don't tend to interest me either, but I might need to check it out. I saw Hamilton on tour and she seemed like a lot of fun, which often makes me want to try an author's work!

  7. I love the sound of Amani for sure Keertana, and I think that is going to be why all the new characters introduced late in the game are going to be a problem for me as well. I know I'm just going to want to stay with her! Here's hoping the sequel does NOT have any kind of love triangle:(

  8. It definitely isn't just you ;) I totally kept thinking of Hamilton while I was reading the book because the author's name was Hamilton and Hamilton is life, etc etc.

    And I am with you about the pacing. For me the first half of the book was pretty well paced but in the second half, there were too many things happening and not enough time to process them?

    I haven't read the synopsis to book two yet because I am behind on life in general but NO LOVE TRIANGLES PLEASE.

    ANYWAY, lovely review as ALWAYS and here is to hoping book 2 is love triangle free because f that shit.


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