CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 39. . . .June 8, 2018
Hero at the Fall. (Rebel of the Sands #3).
New York, NY: Viking (Distributed in Canada by Penguin Canada), 2018.
452 pp., hardcover, $24.99.
Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.
Review by Kim Aippersbach.
“Hey,” I said to the bartender. I shoved the bottle bomb into Sam’s hands as I turned away. “Matches. I know you have them.”
With shaking hands, he retrieved a box of matches from under the bar, holding them out to me.
I struck a match, setting it to the sheema wick of the makeshift bomb. Sam raised an eyebrow at me. “Nice to know my fear of you doing something that would get us killed was baseless.”
“You should probably toss that, unless you really want to be proved right,” I offered. “Now!”
… Sam flung the bottle, sending it smashing to the floor in a burst of glass, fire, and, best of all, smoke.
I whipped my arms upward. The sand surged up with all the strength I had in me. The thin, cheap floorboards never stood a chance. They splintered under the force, creating a gash in the building straight down into the water below.
I grabbed Sam by the collar and hauled him through. He was going to need to come up with a better answer than “What?” to my question about swimming pretty quick. At least one of us needed to be able to stay afloat.
Hero at the Fall concludes the colourful fantasy trilogy that began with Rebel of the Sands and continued with Traitor to the Throne. With the Rebel Prince Ahmed and his advisors imprisoned by the Sultan, Amani has to lead the remaining rebels in a rescue attempt. But Ahmed and the others are trapped in an underground prison designed to contain the Destroyer of Worlds. Amani will need magical help to get her friends out, and so she releases the Sin Maker, a Djinn imprisoned beneath a mountain for betraying his fellow Djinni. Like all Djinn, however, his help can’t be trusted.
The Sultan has used the life of a Djinn to power an army of bronze soldiers and a wall of fire that defend his city from both the rebels and foreign invaders. After rescuing Ahmed and gathering reinforcements to the rebel army, Amani sneaks back into the city and the palace to release the Djinn’s life force and shut down the unstoppable soldiers and unbreachable fire, knowing that she will likely die when the Djinn power is loosed. A climactic battle between rebel and Sultan forces ensues.
The breathtaking conclusion to a high-octane series, Hero at the Fall can only be faulted for having too much of everything. Beloved characters choose to sacrifice their lives to save others; Amani has heart-rendingly impossible dilemmas to solve; beings of unimaginable power offer miracles at a price. When such climactic scenes happen too many times, they lose some of their effectiveness. And with so many different plot threads to wrap up, some of the more interesting thematic and character elements are given short shrift. Hamilton chose to go with epic action and broad scope, which will please her target audience, but there is the potential for deeper ideas that she simply doesn’t have time to develop.
Amani’s character arc comes full circle as she returns to her home town and realizes how far she has come. She is reunited with her half-brother, Noorsham, furthering the series’ exploration of sibling relationships. Family relationships of all kinds are highlighted in many ways: the rebellion pits sons against fathers and siblings against each other, and the climax scene involves Amani’s Djinn father who, she believes, cares nothing for her.
A number of different leadership styles and philosophies are modeled in various characters Amani encounters; she is uncomfortable with the decision-making role that has been thrust upon her, but she learns from every encounter and refines her goals and values with each dilemma she faces. The conclusion is satisfyingly true to the person Amani has become.
Interlude chapters told in a folktale style convey important plot information or historical background quickly while demonstrating how real people and actions are turned into legends. The theme of stories and storytelling—and the boundaries between truth and fiction—adds richness to both plot and narration.
The writing is sometimes wordy but effectively builds tension and emotion. There is plenty of humour and steamy romance, including a non-graphic sex scene. The “Rebel of the Sands” series is hugely fun with meaty characters in an imaginative setting, and fans will be thrilled with this action- and magic-packed conclusion. The trilogy as a whole is one of the better and more original YA fantasies out there.
Kim Aippersbach is a writer, editor and mother of three living in Vancouver, BC.
© CM Association
University of Manitoba
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