Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1) by Alwyn Hamilton
Published in 2016 by Viking Books for Young Readers.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: YA high fantasy.

My rating:

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.

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You know you trust a blogger’s taste in books when you buy a book based on their recommendation without even reading the blurb. When Alicia recommended this, I picked it up as soon as I saw it in the bookstore. To be perfectly honest, the gorgeous cover did influence my decision, but still. I was worried about reading this one because I’d had a bad experience with The Wrath and the Dawn and the two books somehow became linked in my mind, even if there’s no connection between them (apart from the fact that they’re both set in the desert). I shouldn’t have worried, however, because Rebel of the Sands is a different kind of beast altogether.

I liked the protagonist, Amani, even though she can be a bit of a special snowflake sometimes. But she’s also the kind of girl who takes her fate into her own hands and takes action, which is something I miss so often from other YA fantasies. She’s a great shooter, she’s not afraid of taking the leap and take care of herself. That said, I was surprised by how she was able to leave certain people behind – she seems loyal but then she saves her own butt twice. I don’t know – it’s a slight inconsistency of character, but it didn’t bother me too much.

Jin, the mysterious guy she meets when she tries to win a shooting competition, is another intriguing character. I liked their interactions a lot, especially the romance which was appropriately slow-burn for me. There was enough chemistry, and yet no talk of love and soulmates after only weeks of knowing each other, so I am very pleased with this. I’m eager to see how their relationship will develop in the rest of the series.

The world-building is interesting as well. There’s always danger of info dumps when the author is building a new world but I thought Hamilton did a good job here. She drew her inspiration from the Arabic world, which is rich and beautiful as well as really, really harsh. At times, I got the feeling she was trying to shock me with some of the more brutal elements of such a culture, but then she always made sure to show that there are always people who disagree with the horrible traditions, people who are willing to fight for a better world.

All things considered, this is a great debut and a very good start to a beautiful fantasy. I can’t wait for Traitor to the Throne, which is being published in February. I’m actually glad I waited a bit before starting this one, so I won’t have to wait too long for the sequel.

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Have you read Rebel of the Sands? What did you think?

What was the last good YA fantasy you read?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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  • I really loved this one too—I actually liked it a lot more than I expected to!

    • It was very, very readable and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel. I hope it’s as good as this one!

  • I really enjoyed this one – although I predicted many of the plot twists. Still I’m looking forward to book number too and am glad you enjoyed this :) Its always worrying I think going into a book with so much hype!

    • Yeahhh, the plot is not that complicated, I agree, though it’s very readable and I really liked it.

      And yes, books with too much hype always worry me, but I have a couple of bloggers I trust when it comes to this.

  • I’ve heard wonderful things about this one too but I have yet to buy myself a copy. I adore books set in the desert so just that is a selling feature for me :) I’m really happy that it delivered for you – you made me want to read it even more :D

    • The desert is a great environment. I liked how it was actually a part of the story here, not just a stage prop (like in The Wrath and the Dawn). I hope you’ll like it if you get to read it!

  • I really loved the beginning of this one, but my interest started to fizzle out midway through. I am most definitely going to be picking up the sequel however. I liked Amani a lot too and I especially enjoyed her romance with Jin! I’m all for the slow-burn with banter. I’m reading Frostblood right now and the romance reminds me a bit of Jin & Amani’s. It’s very ship-worthy.
    I’m glad you enjoyed this one, Kaja! :)

    • I agree, the beginning was really intriguing. It did hold my attention – mostly with the romance, ha.

      I’ll check out your review for Frostblood (you’ll be reviewing it, right?). I’m always on the lookout for ship-worthy romances!

  • Sara Letourneau

    I’ve been on the fence about reading this one. Some of the other reviews gave it middle-of-the-road ratings and said it was predictable. But if I’m writing a YA fantasy, I should at least check it out, maybe renting it from the library…

    • If you can get it from the library, that’s a perfect option. I mean, it DOES have a super gorgeous cover, but you can always buy it later if you decide you like it enough that you have to have your own copy. :)

      Or you could wait until the rest of the series (or at least book 2) is out and then binge-read them all.

  • I read this earlier this year and I really liked it, looking forward to book 2!

    Nereyda│ Nick & Nereyda’s Infinite Booklist

    • Yep, it’s a good thing we only have to wait 2 months, not more! :)

  • I’m so glad this one worked out better than The Wrath and the Dawn for you. I remember I was itching for something to really get me excited for 2016 releases and this one did it. I hear ya when it comes to the whole “soul mates” thing. I’d be running for the hills if such talk was raised after knowing someone for only a few days. Hoping the sequel is just as enjoyable. Great review!

    • Thanks, Alicia!

      Soul mates in YA romances are… weird from an adult’s point of view. I know that when you’re 17 and in love, you definitely feel like the other person might be with your for ever and ever, but from where I’m standing, it’s pretty unlikely. ;)

  • I love that you loved this book. I was completely in love with it and couldn’t figure out how to put into words why. I think I may have to reread and write a proper review to explain it.

    I think it worked because it was different. I mean, the whole magic system was original and the characters were interesting. I wish I could remember all the things I loved about this book because I did love it. You’ve definitely covered the things I enjoyed anyway. Now I just need to read the sequel.

    • Yeah, I don’t remember reading your review for this one? Will you be re-reading it before the sequel comes out?

      I’m glad I waited so I won’t have to re-read it and can jump straight into the sequel with the story still fresh in my mind. Though if I know myself at all, I’ll buy the book and then have it on my shelf for months. Oops.

      • I always intended to write a review then didn’t. I couldn’t think of what to say. It was one of those books I loved too much yet couldn’t put into words why. I definitely plan to reread in time for the next book coming out. With my new budget I’ll hopefully have time before I buy.

  • This sounds very good and has been getting lots of positive reviews. I’m keeping it in mind, but thinking I may wait until the entire series is out. I have enough series I’m waiting for as it is!

    • Yeah, I get that. I have so many series unfinished right now it’s embarrasing. I’ll be making some NY resolutions about that for sure! :)

  • Glad you enjoyed this one, Kaja! I didn’t love it quite as much (I thought things kind of fell apart in the second half), but the world building was awesome, so I’ll probably check out book 2. I just saw the sequel on NetGalley actually, so you’re right on time to be reading that one!

    • I’ll be buying the sequel as a paperback, too, I have the first one so I want the whole gorgeous series! :) I hope the second book will live up to the first one. It wasn’t perfect but it was a good, fast read, which is basically all I wanted from it.

  • This has been on my TBR list for a while. I’m hoping to get to it next year, but we’ll see. Law school has my reading habits all over the place. I’m almost afraid to do an end of year survey/analysis. ^^; Thanks for the great review!

    • Thanks, Kel! Maybe you can wait and binge the entire series once it’s published – and then you can also decide if it’s worth starting when you read the reviews for sequels, too. I hate it when I love the first part of a series and then the rest of it just doesn’t match that quality.