I can’t get enough of Arabian Nights retellings, so it’s no surprise that Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton became a top read for me. The story centres on Amani, who disguises herself as a gun-wielding bandit, wants to leave her hometown to explore the world but becomes entangled with Jin and soon she ends up being a part of an infamous prince’s rebellion.
I loved the mesh up of western, fantasy and Arabian Nights. Cowboys/girls, djinnis and other mythical creatures sharing the desert. I was wary at first since the western genre isn’t my thing and I was also worried that poc characters would be overshadowed by possible white characters. However, that wasn’t the case. Amani holds the spotlight and her growth is soothing – and I didn’t see that plot twist coming.
As for the romance, I thought it was too sudden and even though Amani and Jin spend a lot of time together on the journey, that wasn’t much to lead them to be romantic and reveal their feelings for each other as the story mainly focuses on the conflict and the world being in peril – the characters don’t have time for romance.
While the writing is beautifully poetic, there’s something casual about it too and that made it easy to relate to Amani. I liked that the book explored the society she belongs to and how conventions impact her. Shazad, who is a sword-wielding badass, I mean rebel, helps Amani to accept who she is and not hide under a disguise to move freely. I hope we get to see more of Shazad (since she’s an ordinary human who relies on her skills and holds out on her own) and other female characters in the sequel. The book keeps you guessing what would happen next until it stuns you on the edge of your seat.
If you’re looking for refreshing fantasy books and retellings, then read Rebel of the Sands and your dreams will come true. Without a djinni’s help, of course.