About the Book

Title: Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1)
Published: 2016
Series: Rebel of the Sands
Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Cover Story: Worth a Thousand and One Words
BFF Charm: Heck Yes
Talky Talk: Middle Western
Bonus Factors: Superpowers, Diversity, Badass Ladies
Relationship Status: Already Planning a Second (and Third and …) Date

Cover Story: Worth a Thousand and One Words

This cover—which is really lovely—screams “I am a book about deserts and djinn and mysteries hidden beneath shifting sands.” Which, thankfully, is pretty darn accurate.

The Deal:

Living your whole life in a dead-end town is hard, particularly for Amani Al’Hiza. Through no fault of her own, she lives under the black cloud of a murder and is forced to cater to the whims of a controlling aunt and uncle. She’s also a young woman, which means—at least in the town of Dustwalk—that her only real options in life are to become someone’s wife (and possibly a second or third one at that).

But Amani has always dreamed big. And when she meets Jin, a mysterious (and attractive) stranger, she finally sees a light at the end of the dusty tunnel. She soon realizes, however, that merely escaping isn’t all that she’s meant to do.

BFF Charm: Heck Yes

BFF Charm Heck Yes - sparklier and shinier than the original BFF Charm

I appreciate that Amani’s not willing to just go with the flow and roll with life’s punches. She’s a young woman with a fiery spirit and a dedicated passion for making more of herself, odds and traditions be damned. From a very young age, Amani started planning for the future; she taught herself how to shoot—and shoot well—to gain a skill that set her apart. The kind of life she was born into might have broken a lesser person, but Amani stays strong, and delightfully sarcastic, through it all.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Although there is definitely an attraction between Amani and Jin when the two first meet, Amani sees him more as a way out of Dustwalk than a possible partner in romance. Of course, this being a YA book, her opinion changes as the story progresses.

Talky Talk: Middle Western

There’s a lot going on in Rebel of the Sands. The story is set in a desert land like those you’d read about in stories from The Thousand and One Nights, but Amani’s skills as a gunslinger, certain scenes (e.g., a train heist), and the way some of the characters talk, is very Wild West. There’s also a rebellion led by a banished prince, attacks from paranormal creatures and individuals with special (supernatural) abilities popping up left and right. One might think all of these elements would cause for a confusing read, but I never felt like the story suffered from the mixing. In fact, although this combination of elements was quite an undertaking, Alwyn Hamilton pulled it all off well. And this is only her first novel—I see big things in her future, for sure.

Bonus Factor: Superpowers

The various abilities of the gifted people in Rebel of the Sands—I’m being vague because spoilers—are neatly tied to the book’s setting, and unique in their development.

Bonus Factor: Diversity

Faces of all different races, ethnicities and genders.

Rebel of the Sands is set in an Arabia-like world, so most (if not all) of the characters in the book are individuals of color. Hamilton never makes it a thing, however; she doesn’t spend an inordinate amount of time describing the characters, and they never come across as stereotypes. I often found myself—a super white girl from the Pacific Northwest—easily slipping into Amani’s shoes, and that’s really what I want from a main character. (Books with diverse characters who anyone can relate to, color of skin be darned, and who aren’t relegated to sidekick status aren’t impossible, Publishing World! /rant)

Bonus Factor: Badass Ladies

Charlize Theron as Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road holds a gun a stares fiercely just off camera

Amani isn’t the only young woman in Rebel of the Sands who’s a total BAMF. In fact, there are many in the book, and they’re all awesome and inspiring in their own ways.

Relationship Status: Already Planning a Second (and Third and …) Date

We hit the ground running, Book, and never looked back. I’m already looking forward to the next time we get together, and it hasn’t been very long since we said goodnight. Although I’m not typically one who gets attached so quickly, I’m rolling with it this time. Do you believe in fate?

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Viking, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Rebel of the Sands is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband and their dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.