Sunday, January 31, 2016

Review: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton


Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Book One of the Rebel of the Sands series
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: March 8, 2016
Rating: 5 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (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.

What I Liked:

Ahhh, I can see why this book has received so many stunningly positive early reviews so far, and why it's set to be a huge success worldwide. This book was magical! And such a fun, exciting fantasy novel. So many YA fantasy books today are so heavy and gloom-and-doom-y, save-the-world-and-claim-the-throne kinds. This book has certain elements that are typical of YA fantasy novels, but nothing like your average YA fantasy, in my opinion.

Amani desperately wants to escape the small desert town of Dustwalk. She's excellent with a gun, and she's hoping to use those skills to win some prize money and get out of the town, before her uncle marries her off. With a little help from a handsome foreigner, Amani escapes into the world outside of Dustwalk. But she isn't expecting the wild adventure that follows, tangling her up in rebellion and revolution and magic she has never seen before. 

My expectations have been super high, ever since seeing this book's cover (the original one AND the new one!). It's not always smart to be excited about a book solely based on the cover, but in this case, I was justified. Kickbutt fantasy + amazing synopsis + gorgeous cover? This book has been calling to me! So I'm even more excited that it did not disappoint, because my expectations were crazy high!

Amani surprised me from the very beginning. I know we in the YA book world like to throw around phrases like "kicka** heroine", how some heroines are tough and feisty and spunky and whatnot. But Amani is a different kind of tough. She's so incredibly mouthy, and she stands in the face of danger and does not back down. I love her wild spirit, and how unafraid she is to show her temper's claws. Not that she has an angry temper - but her personality is very fiery. I love her to pieces! Her character development was a very important part of this book; as she matures as she discovers the world beyond Dustwalk.

The world-building of this book is incredible! Desert fantasies are nothing new in YA, but this desert fantasy is a little different. Guns and trains and other technology totally exist, and yet, so does Djinni and ghouls and magic. The world is also highly patriarchal, and polygamy is very common. Amani's uncle has many wives who all live together with their children... it's just of awful to read, and a bit heartbreaking. The Sultan himself has, and I quote, "more sons than there are hours in the day" (ARC, 170). While no one will like this polygamous aspect (I hope!), everyone can agree that its presence helps the authenticity and richness of the world-building.

Did I mention how much I liked the setting? No? I love desert settings. I like how the author made this desert setting very unique and almost modern, but totally not modern. We're not stuck in Dustwalk for very long, and Amani travels through many places. This book takes place over many months (at least two), and I like how the pacing felt. 

Our male protagonist is Jin, who is the foreigner mentioned in the synopsis. Jin! Ah! I liked him a lot. He's charming and funny and adept in a fight. He's handsome and muscular and extremely intelligent. We don't know exactly who he is for a good part of the book, but when we find out, it came as a bit of a surprise to me. I LOVE that the author does not take a cliche route with Jin. Jin is one of my favorite characters in the book, and I was cheering him on just as much as I was cheering on Amani.

We meet many of our secondary characters in the latter half of the book, and I adore so many of them! Shazad is another strong female, in a different way. Hala too. Bahi is such a sweetie! I love the twins too. The author does an excellent with the development of the secondary characters - and what a lovely cast of characters they were.

The story captivated me, and I love how the author moved the plot. The book never seemed slow, or overwhelming. This book is the first in a trilogy, so the author did not get into the heavier parts of the fantasy in this particular book. We are introduced to the political conflicts and there are some key moves made in this book. But I liked that, despite all of that, this story remained fun and adventurous. I'm sure it'll get more calculating and threatening and fearful in the next two books, but I'm savoring the adventure that was this first book.

There is a subtle and sweet romance in this book! The synopsis alludes to it, and I'm happy to say that I love the blossoming relationship between Amani and Jin. I LOVE that they are slowly coming to understand their feelings - there are no "I love you"'s thrown around, and no one is making rash decisions for the sake of each other. The romance is so sweet, and yet, so sneaky. I foresee more swoony scenes in future books, but this one kept the romance light and sweet. Also, no love triangle in any way shape or form! Not an insinuation or speck or whiff.

No cliffhanger either! Small mercy there, because I have been hit with so many cliffhangers recently. Phew! I'm sure there will be a cliffhanger at the end of book two of the trilogy (as it usually happens), but we're safe for now!

Have I said enough to convince you? I'm going to wrap up my review a little, because I could probably go on and on. I loved this beautiful story and cannot wait to read the next book!

What I Did Not Like:

Nothing that I can think of at the moment! Maybe that we have to wait for the sequel?! Personal request there - more kissing!

Would I Recommend It:

Whether you're a YA fantasy fan or not, this is definitely NOT a book to miss. The ending is not cliffhanger-y at all, so it wouldn't hurt to start now! I so want to reread this book and experience it all over again. What a fabulous story!

Rating:

4.5 stars -> rounded up to 5 stars. I can see this being a favorite at the end of the year! I don't give the five-star rating often, but I'm thinking this book deserves it!


Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!


The Giveaway:

5 winners will receive: hardcover of REBEL OF THE SANDS, PenguinTeen tote bag, and a Shimmering Hourglass. USA only.

32 comments:

  1. Wow, it sounds a little something of everything Wild West, Far East, and Fantasy Intrigue. Sold me! Nice review, Alyssa!

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    1. Dude! When I first started reading, I was like, this is FANTASY?! I'm getting Wild West vibes... but I *love* that there is so much uniqueness to the story, in that sense. Djinni and gun shootouts and sandstorms - what a strange (and cool) world to live in.

      Thank you, Sophia!

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  2. Great review! I just love main characters who have a sense of humor so it seems like I will like this book! :)

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    1. Me too! The humor was a huge plus. :D I hope you adore this one, Miranda!

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  3. i love your review. I am impatient to receive mine this month.

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  4. Great review, Alyssa! I'm so happy to hear it stays in fun fantasy adventure-land and out of the usual doom and gloom. I'll definitely keep my eye out for it. :)

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    1. Thank you, Kel! It was a fun book, not heavy or difficult to read (like some fantasy novels - though I love those too!). I hope you give this one a chance, Kel!

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  5. Wow! I've been seeing this one a lot and naturally that gets me curious from the getgo! And to see that you gave it 5 stars really has me impressed! This sounds like one I might have to pick up as it sounds sooo awesome! Great review!

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    1. Personally I think you should reserve this one at the library or something, Jessica. ;) Don't miss it!

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  6. I have heard so many good things about this book. I am so excited to read it when it comes out. Great review!

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    1. I hope you love it, Justine! Thank you. <3

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  7. Wow great review!!! I'm glad to hear that the world building and setting are well done. :)

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  8. Great review! I pre-ordered it! Can't wait.

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    1. Ooohh! Definitely not a waste of money at all, I promise! Enjoy. :)

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  9. Such a great review! And a 5? I definitely need to get ahold of this one soon!

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    1. Thank you, Lisa! A rare five stars from me! I hope you love it. ^_^

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  10. Amazing review Alyssa! I absolutely love the new cover for this book. I am so glad and happy that you really love and enjoyed this one. Now I totally love YA and fantasy but I don't now about this one for me. Because I am really not too happy about the polygamy aspect of this book, because I really don't agree with it at all. So I don't now if this one is my kind of book. I really don't know if I will give it a try or not. Bummer because I was really hoping that I can get it out from the library and see if I like it or not. But most likely not. But hey I did enter the giveaway without really knowing about the polygamy part. If I win than I have to give it a try. Thank you for your awesome post my friend.

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    1. It's not a big enough part of the book for me to get upset about it! I know what you mean though. It's hard for me to read books about arranged marriages (because of my cultural background and how arranged marriages have directly affected my life). But the polygamy aspect isn't big enough in this book to make me freak out.

      You're very welcome!

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  11. I'm so excited for this book!! I, like you, wanted to read it for the cover, but now that I read your review I know it will be amazing!
    I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

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    1. I hope you love this book, Lis! I have a feeling you will. :D

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  12. Yaaay :D I'm so glad you loved this book Alyssa. <3 Stunning review sweet girl :) It was a four star for me, but I also liked it so so much :D It was just awesome. Sigh. So happy you thought so too :) And yesss. Romance was pretty amazing. I just hope there will be more in book two :) Fingers crossed. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. <3

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    1. Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it as well! I'm hoping for more swoony scenes in book two as well. I don't know if I'll be able to share a swoon from this one, on Thursday! There weren't enough. ;D

      Thank YOU, Carina!

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  13. Another five star review from you! Oh my goodness, I guess I'm reading this one sooner rather than later :)

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    1. My second of the year! You need to pick this one up NOW, Liza. :D

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  14. WOWWWW a 5 star from you really means something special! I am SO EXCITED for this. I was going to try to get my fun post up tonight, but time escaped me. I think I am going to have to read this ASAP though- like, SO soon. Maybe even push other books aside. It sounds phenomenal! Like, I love ALL the things about it, and if it is done well, then count me in! Fabulous review, you've made me SO excited for it!

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    1. I was on the fence, but I decided that this book deserved all five stars. I hope you read it soon and LOVE it, Shannon! ^_^

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  15. YAAAAY!! I'm so happy to hear you loved this one so much! I have it coming in the mail, and now I'm even more excited for it!

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    1. Woot woot! I hope you love this one as much as I did (or more), Pili!

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  16. Alwyn Hamilton’s Rebel in the Sands has so much to offer in terms of characters and setting. The world she has built is bold and enchanting, and I found myself craving more and more of it. Her characters are well-written, and I love that Hamilton takes time to peel away their layers.

    Mariz
    Great data for Sewer Line Repair

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    1. Agreed! Hopefully this continues in book two. =)

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