Book Review: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

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 review:

“Tell me that and we’ll go. Right now. Save ourselves and leave this place to burn. Tell me that’s how you want your story to go and we’ll write it straight across the sand to the sea.”

Growing up, I had a VHS tape of Aladdin that I would watch over and over again. I could relate to that world, unlike that of Cinderella or Snow White’s. It was the only thing I could watch and never tire of. Over the years, I’ve patiently waited for a remake or retelling, literally anything in film or literature like what has been done for so many other Disney princesses. So, I know it might sound silly, but I get ridiculously excited when anything resembling the Middle Eastern or Arabian culture is used as the setting for a story. This is one of the many reasons why I loved An Ember in the Ashes so much (click here for my review). I yearn for the history and the desert and the mythical creatures. I want to hear more about the sultans and their armies and the rebels. But this was not really what I wanted.

It was slow. I am the type of person who likes to start and finish a book in one sitting, but I was constantly forcing myself to re-open this book. The first couple hundred pages were tedious to read. Even when things picked up, it was hardly a pace that was appropriate at that point in the novel. What are things building up to? What is the point of all of this? The direction was lacking a little bit.

The part that bothered me the most, however, is how Westernized everything was. I understand that this “Western twist” may have been what the author intended to do, but it just didn’t sit well with me. And this is nothing against Alwyn Hamilton. I’ve actually had the pleasure of meeting her and she seems like the sweetest person ever. Anyone who listens to her speak can tell how passionate she is about her writing, and how much she cares for her characters and their heritage. I have no doubt that her intentions were good. It just could have been better.

★★★ (3.5 stars) because the potential was there, but the only thing that really excited me were the Buraqis.

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