Title: Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1)
Author: Alwyn Hamilton
Narrator: Soneela Nankani
Publisher: Recorded Books, Inc.
Release Date: March 8th 2016
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Romance
Play time: 9 hr and 31 min
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.
My First Thoughts:
I’ve been looking for a good book to listen to on my way to campus and on my long walks to my classes. I haven’t read very many books, fantasy or otherwise, with a Middle Eastern tone, so I was excited to give this book a try.
For a debut novel, Rebel of the Sands was pretty good. It wasn’t squeaky clean and shiny, but it was a good start to a series for a first time author. And for one of the first stories that I’ve read with a heavy Middle Eastern theme, it has given me a taste for more.
I think my favorite part about this book was the journey. Looking back on some of the other review for this book people found the first part to e rather boring. Honestly, it was really refreshing to listen to a story about an unfortunate heroine that isn’t rushing at the chance to save the world, like so many popular YA do. People complained that there was no plot to this story and I have to argue against that. Rebel of the Sands reads like the classic hero’s journey. In fact, while I listened to the story progress I often had thoughts about Luke Skywalker and his hero’s journey.
Yes, the first part of the book can be very long to some readers who don’t care much for build. There’s a lot of action and character development in the first half of the story, but sometimes you just have to sit back and let the story wash over you. I found the ‘boring’ part of the story to be very interesting because the author took this time to try and introduce the larger world that she created for her characters. I promise that there is plot from beginning to end, it’s just a lot of the beginning of the plot is to subtly (and realistically) change the heroine into someone who looks out for herself only to someone who looks out for others. I found Amani’s journey to be quite interesting and I enjoyed listening to how she changed throughout the story.
For those willing to sift through the first part of the book (I promise, it’s not that bad but a lot of “big” reviewers have said otherwise) the second part of the story picks up the pace pretty quickly. Honestly, I got through that half a lot more quickly than the first, but mostly because I was not aware of how much time would pass when I listened. The change in pace wasn’t sudden, there was a nice easy transition that didn’t give you whiplash. However, one it really starts to pick up it’s really hard to put it down. Several times I had to remind myself that I had to get out of the car to go inside or that I needed to get homework done.
For the most part, I really enjoyed the characters and their development. Each character was just a little bit different and the author didn’t have to spend a lot of time showing us their personalities. Even the minor characters were easily discernable and could be imagined easily, which was nice because you meet a lot of them in rapid succession in the second half. Yes, our main character are a little bit cliché, but they were extremely enjoyable to follow!
Speaking of clichés, another gripe other reviewers had with this book was that it was riddled with overused themes in YA books. Honestly, it’s really hard to write a YA book without working in clichés into the story, it’s nearly impossible because every good idea has been used in thousands of books across the genres. With that said, this book actually didn’t have very many glaring clichés you might find in a debut novel. Yes, some of the things about the characters were a little cliché, but honestly they only appeared that way and the author slowly revealed why she wrote her characters that way. Could it have been written a little better? Yes, but for a first attempt at a bestselling novel, the author did a pretty good job of it.
The last thing I’ll talk about is the world building. One thing I love more than character development is world building, especially in fantasy or sci-fi where an author has the most range. While this book reads very much like it has a Middle Eastern setting, it is nothing like I’ve ever read. I really enjoyed being submersed in the sand with the characters, hearing stories about the county’s mythos along with them, it made my walks onto campus and to class seem almost mystical. The author’s world is more than just sand and sun, it was so much more and I loved seeing through my mind’s eye what it must’ve looked like. I can’t wait to see how the author expands her fantastical world in the rest of the series, especially as she grows as a writer!
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to travel to a different place all together. I’ve read a lot of fantasies, but they normally spend a majority of the time in a very European-like setting where the characters visit ‘exotic’ places or deserts briefly, so it’s refreshing to read one set within the desert. The magic and mythos of the land is also different from what I’ve read before, so it could be a lot of fun if you’re looking for something fresh, something new.
I will have to say that this story does have some Western themes, which was a little odd for me at first because it didn’t seem to fit quite right in my mind. However, as the story plans out those themes add to the story and really help develop some of the characters. It does make some sequences in the story seem unbearably why, and some of you might ask why these scenes are needed. Trust me, the long sequences are very much needed but they dominate a lot of the first half of the story so it may be a little hard to get through that first bit.
This story was pretty solid, definitely an excellent first attempt for a new author! I loved the settling, the overarching world, the characters, and even some of the clichés. I also enjoyed being surprised from time to time. There were some major reveals that I didn’t see coming or saw almost a little too late, which is always exciting for me. This book won’t be for everyone, but I bet that those who do enjoy it will have a lot of fun reading it. I can’t wait for the next installment!
I really enjoyed Ms. Nankani’s narration of this story. I felt like Amani and her journey really came alive as she spoke. Sometimes her male voices were a little rough, especially when they were conveying certain strong emotions. However, I do understand that it can be hard for women to variate male voices. Overall, she was fantastic and can’t wait to hear her read the sequel!