CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 36. . . .May 18, 2018
Traitor to the Throne. (Rebel of the Sands, #2).
New York, NY: Viking (Distributed in Canada by Penguin Canada), 2017.
513 pp., hardcover, $24.99.
Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.
Review by Kim Aippersbach.
“We lost our last Demdji, unfortunately,” the Sultan was saying. “It was our young Tamid’s idea to make things a little more secure this time.” He nodded to my one-time friend. Tamid was still looking anywhere but at me.
And finally I understood what was below the bandages.
“You put metal beneath my skin.” It would be bronze. Bronze with my name on it. My true name. Including the name of my real father. I looked for a bronze ring on his hand like the one Naguib had used to control Noorsham. Something I could wrench off his fingers, breaking his control over me and letting me make a run for it. Instead I spied a small bandage across the Sultan’s forearm. Like mine. He was taking precautions.
“Bronze.” The Sultan touched one of the scars. “And iron.”
My stomach lurched at that. They had cut my skin open, put iron underneath it, and stitched me back up.
I was powerless.
Traitor to the Throne, the second book of an action-packed fantasy trilogy, is the sequel to Rebel of the Sands. Heroine Amani is a Demdji, half-Djinn, with magical abilities that she has been using in the Rebellion against the Sultan. In this installment, she is betrayed and sold to the Sultan who is collecting Demdji to use their powers for his own ends. With iron under her skin, she cannot use her abilities, and with bronze she is compelled to obey all the Sultan’s commands. Terrified that the Sultan will find out she is with the Rebellion and force her to reveal their plans, she still does her best to take advantage of being inside the palace to pass information back to her rebel friends while trying to stay safe from complicated harem politics.
The Sultan forces Amani to summon Djinn, whom he uses to power unstoppable metal soldiers. Amani’s allies manage to get her out of the Sultan’s clutches, but he has more tricks up his sleeve, and, in an exciting reversal, Prince Ahmed and the other Rebellion leaders are captured.
Amani is a fun, fierce, reckless heroine who gets dropped into a situation that requires patience, strategy and diplomacy, none of which are her strengths. There are still shoot-outs and dramatic magical battles, but much of the fighting consists of mind-games and manipulation, familiar to anyone who survived high-school. Loyalties and trust are tested to the breaking point as Amani has to choose allies within the palace, and her interactions with the Sultan make her question the wisdom of the Rebellion.
Hamilton fits some interesting character development into a fast-paced, high-stakes adventure. Her world-building continues to be complex and fascinating, melding the Wild West with a Middle-East-inspired setting, but drawing from many different mythologies to build her magic. The foreign powers who all want a piece of Miraji are thinly disguised analogues of England, France and China, so the series briefly nods at ideas of colonialism without venturing into any political depths.
Old characters return so that Amani can renegotiate her relationships with them, and a few new characters are introduced; everyone has complicated motivations of their own so all the characters are vivid and three-dimensional. The Sultan, in particular, is an intriguing villain who genuinely thinks he is doing the right thing for his country. Questions of values and morality are touched upon as Amani has to judge whether the Sultan’s ends justify his means, and whether her own decisions are based on the right reasons.
Readers are whisked through moments of philosophy or introspection by the relentless pace of twists, surprises and betrayals, and Traitor to the Throne’s stunning cliff-hanger ending will leave them desperate for the third book. The “Rebel of the Sands” series continues to deliver all the ingredients of a successful YA fantasy with original magic, an interestingly flawed heroine and decent writing.
Kim Aippersbach is a writer, editor and mother of three living in Vancouver, BC.
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