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.
- 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.
-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.