Reviewed by Eline Berkhout
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton follows Amani, a girl who lives in a desert town called Dustwalk. In a land where mythical creatures still dwell, the Sultan is all-powerful and women have even less rights than most animals, Amani is determined to skip the town and make her way to the big city. So when she meets a stranger, Jin, in a sharpshooting competition, she sees her chance and joins him on his journey away from the town. Seeing as Jin is a fugitive wanted for treason, however, this journey isn’t always easy. Amani follows Jin as they flee from the Sultan’s army regardless, because that is the only way for her to get what she wants: being free.
This book was quite an interesting read. I’ve never before read a book about the desert or this region, so it was a nice change of scenery. Add strong writing and a fascinating plot, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a good book. I had a bit of an issue with it, though. I’m pretty sure it was just me who experienced this, but I found that I had trouble connecting with the characters. Amani could be running through the desert, nearly dying of dehydration, and I’d almost shrug. It’s not that I wanted to be indifferent toward them, it’s just that I felt absolutely no love for the characters whatsoever. Whether that is actually the book’s fault is to be seen. I read this book over the span of weeks, and it is very possible that the lengthened pauses prevented me from bonding with the characters.
Another thing I’ve got to mention is the fact that this book is not at all what I expected it to be. When I read the description, I expected an action-packed story about a bad-ass girl with a gun, running around and shooting everybody. Boy, was I wrong. Whilst the girl is still bad-ass, and whilst there still is action, a large part of the first half of the book is just Amani and Jin in the desert, walking. Walking and talking. As I was expecting a very fast-paced novel, I felt as if the story fell a bit flat. Yet I also think that, if I’d gone in without any of these expectations, I’d not have felt that way.
I feel like this book is not for me. I couldn’t quite bond with the characters, and it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. This doesn’t mean, however, that it was a bad book! I would still recommend it, as it is a good story about a culture you don’t often see in books. Even though I cannot give it a higher rating than 6/10, I do fully understand where the hype surrounding this novel comes from. For anybody interested in picking this one up, I’ve got a bit of advice: don’t expect action on every page, and read it in as little time as possible. If you do all that, I think you could have found your new favorite book!
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You can find more of Eline’s reviews (in Dutch) on her blog allthefeels.nl.