________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 33 . . . . April 29, 2016


Rebel of the Sands.

Alwyn Hamilton.
New York, NY: Viking (Distributed in Canada by Penguin Canada), 2016.
314 pp., hardcover, $24.99.
ISBN 978-0-451-47753-8.

Subject Headings:
Adventure and adventures-Fiction.
Fantasy fiction.

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Kim Aippersbach.

**** /4



Jin was at my side, pulling his shirt on over his head as Parviz disappeared. "Did you just shoot someone?"

"I got us hired, if that's what you're asking." I scratched the back of my head and tried to look sheepish. I was sure I wasn't successful judging by the look Jin was giving me. "And I only shot his glass."

Jin hooked one arm around my shoulder, leaning on me. "I knew I liked you, Bandit."

And then came that grin. I might have traitor eyes, but Jin had the sort of smile that would turn over whole empires to the enemy–that made me feel like suddenly I understood him exactly, even though I knew nothing about him. The kind that made me feel like if I was on the right side of it, we could do anything together. I had the next six weeks to find out if that was true.

Rebel of the Sands is the first book of a fantasy trilogy set in a desert world ruled by a Sultan. The heroine, Amani, grew up beside a gun factory and is a crack shot with a pistol. She needs to escape from the tiny town of Dustwalk before her uncle marries her off—or marries her himself.

      Amani enters a pistol-shooting competition where she meets the foreigner Jin. When the Sultan's soldiers come after Jin, Amani captures a magic horse, Jin blows up the weapons factory, and the two ride off into the desert. Amani is determined to get to the big city, Izman, but Jin has his own plans, so sparks fly between the potential allies until they agree to travel together with a caravan hired to protect it from ghouls, Nightmares and other threats of the dark.

      When the caravan is arrested for smuggling magic drugs, Amani and Jin break everyone out of prison. Jin is wounded in the fighting, and Amani uses his mysterious compass—that doesn't point north—to get them to safety. The compass leads them to the secret camp of the Rebel Prince, and Amani discovers that Jin is the Prince's brother. Although she feels betrayed by Jin's deception, Amani is won over to the Prince's cause. Then she discovers she is half-Djinn—something else Jin knew but didn't tell her. She can't figure out what her magic power is, however, and despairs of being any use to the rebels.

      Her shooting skills get her involved in a mission to stop a train with a terrible weapon on board. The weapon turns out to be another half-Djinn—quite possibly Amani's brother—who can create enough heat to incinerate a city. In the fighting, Amani discovers that she can control sand.

      At the end of this first installment in the trilogy, Amani and Jin have helped the Rebel Prince claim part of the country, and they've broken the Sultan's alliance with the Djinn-hating Gallan army. Amani has released her city-burning brother Noorsham from the bonds controlling him, but he has disappeared, his true allegiance unknown.

      Rebel of the Sands is an action-packed epic with an engaging flawed heroine and a fascinating setting. Hamilton's blend of Wild West and Middle East is surprisingly convincing, in part because her mythology of magical First Beings who can be controlled with iron and bronze draws on folktales from around the world, thereby sounding both familiar and entirely original.

      Amani is fierce, single-minded and ruthless in her quest to save herself, but as her prickly relationship with Jin develops, she begins to hope for more than just escape. Her physical and emotional journey toward joining the rebel cause is exciting and believable. Jin is an excellent partner-in-crime to Amani's "Blue-eyed Bandit"—mysterious, attractive, and a match for Amani in courage and skill. Their fiery romance is entertaining.

      The plot has enough twists to surprise the reader as the stakes keep getting raised and more and more players come onto the scene, vivid and interesting people with complicated relationships. Themes of siblings and loyalty are woven through the action.

      This debut novel has depth, passion and originality. It rides the current popular wave of western-inspired stories while adding its own twist. Give Rebel of the Sands to readers who like fighting heroines and smoldering romance, but it will also appeal to fans of Arabian-based fantasy and magical coming-of-age stories.

Highly Recommended.

Kim Aippersbach is a writer, editor and mother of three living in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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