ARC Review: Rebel of the Sands

Rebel of the Sands

Title: Rebel of the Sands

Author: Alwyn Hamilton

Series: Rebel of the Sands, #1

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Release Date: February 4th 2016


Five Stars

“Tell me that and we’ll go. Right now. Save ourselves and leave this place to burn. Tell me that’s how you want your story to go and we’ll write it straight across the sand.”

Dustwalk is Amani’s home. The desert sand is in her bones. But she wants to escape. More than a want. A need.

Then a foreigner with no name turns up to save her life, and with him the chance to run. But to where? The desert plains are full of danger. Sand and blood are swirling, and the Sultan’s enemies are on the rise.

– Blurb courtesy of

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

“If I climbed past the buildings, I’d be able to look across the sand and scrub all the way home to Dustwalk, though there’d be nothing but dark houses. Dustwalk got up and went down with the sun. Good honest behaviour didn’t belong to the dark hours of the night. If it were possible to die of boredom, everyone in Dustwalk would be corpses in the same.
But Deadshot was alive and kicking.”

Amani wants to escape from her home town, a place where nothing happens and there is not future for her, at least no future she wants. After she overhears her uncle talking about taking her as one of his wives the desire Amani feels to escape Dustwalk becomes a need. She heads over to the next town and enters the pistol pit, hoping to scrap together enough money to run away to Izman and never look back. It is in the pit she first meets the Eastern Snake.

Growing up in Dustwalk where they have more guns than food, Amani trained herself how to shoot and she is one of the best. She makes it through to the final round alongside the Eastern Snake but then all hell breaks loose. Forced to flee Amani finds herself back at square one; in her uncle’s house with no hope of escape having spent all her money entering the pistol pit. That is until the Eastern Snake, Jin, seeks shelter in her aunt and uncle’s shop from the Sultan’s guards, accused of treason. Seeing her opportunity to escape in the form of the foreigner whose life she just saved Amani asks for his help.

“The Buraqi was almost on top of me. I had seconds to decide. My legs were trapped, my gut tugging me recklessly towards Tamid. To near-certain death. My heart tugged me to Jin and escape and the unknown.
Jin leaned over the horse, reaching down.
A gunshot went off at my feet.
It wasn’t a decision. More than a want.
It was an instinct. A need. Staying alive.
Jin’s hand came into reach. I clasped it tight and swung my body as Jin pulled me up behind him.”

When a Buraqi arrives in town, attracted by the fire, it provides Jin the distraction he needs. He blows up the factory, steals the Buraqi, and escapes with Amani from Dustwalk and the Sultan’s guards. However, escaping with Jin means the Sultan’s guard new believes Amani knows more about him than she does. After running from Jin and boarding a train to Izman Amani finds herself trapped when the one of the Sultan’s commanders tracks her down. Jin catches up with her and in order to flee they are forced to jump from the train and into the middle of the desert.

With no other choice Jin and Amani are forced to take work with a band of merchants, travelling across the desert, to get them safely towards Izman. As they head deeper into the desert the soon find themselves discovering a deadly new weapon in the Sultan’s hands, and find themselves caught in the middle of a war between the Sultan and his army, and the Rebel Prince.

…The Characters

“Aunt Farrah always said I didn’t seem to mind proving myself dumb if it meant proving someone else wrong.”

Amani has heard stories of far-away places from her mother, and she knows there is more out there than Dustwalk. She wants to escape and she is willing to do whatever it takes to make her dreams of Izman a reality. She has a smart mouth which tends to get her into trouble with her aunt, as well as one of the Commanders of the Sultan’s guard. Amani is very independent, she has big ideas and dreams for a girl in her small town but those ideas are what gives her the need to escape.

“It was damn hard to trust a boy with a smile like that. A smile that made me want to follow him straight to the places he’d told me about and made me sure I shouldn’t at the same time.”

Jin, like Amani, is a good shot and he also doesn’t belong in Dustwalk. He is secretive and doesn’t really open up to Amani about his family, though he accidently lets little things slip every now and again. As he travels with Amani he tries to protect her though he does respect her skill with a pistol. He attempts to talk her out of going to Izman when she has no idea what to expect from the capital and no one there but an aunt she’s never met. However when he realises she will go with or without him he offers to travel with her.

As Amani and Jin travel through the desert in the company of the Camel’s Knees they grow closer. They talk more about their pasts and Jin lets more slip about his family and his home so far away. However I would have liked to see more of their relationship develop. They travelled through the desert together for weeks but the story skipped over that, so at times it felt like we missed out on a huge chunk of their growing relationship. Amani comes to lean on Jin; she gets to know him, trusts him, and relies on him. They work well as a team as they protect the Camel’s Knees during the night. She becomes used to his company and the idea that one day soon they will go their separate ways sits heavy on her mind.

“Suddenly, how soon we’d be going our separate ways really hit me. My aunt Safiyah might be blood, but Jin I knew. And I didn’t want to leave him. He made the world bigger. I wanted to go to the countries he’d been to. And more than anything I wanted him to ask me to go with him. But we were running out of time together.”

Amani is the kind of person who looks out for herself and for her own needs first, which is refreshing in a world of YA characters who are willing to sacrifice anything for other people. When her friend in Dustwalk is injured and Amani is faced with the choice of fleeing with Jin and surviving, or staying with Tamid and facing certain death, she chooses her own life. Again when she is hiding inside a prayer house and the Sultan’s guard interrogates Demdji, a child of an immortal Djinn and a mortal woman, she stays hidden; knowing that there is nothing she can do to help without risking her own life needlessly.

…The Setting

“The city of a thousand golden domes, with towers that’d scratch the blue off the sky, and as many stories as there were people. Where a girl could belong to herself and the whole city was so rich with possibilities that you almost tripped over adventures in the street. She read me stories of Princess Hawa, who sang the dawn into the sky early when Izman was trapped by Nightmares in the night. Of the nameless merchant’s daughter who tricked the Sultan out of his jewels when her father lost his fortune.”

The world building for this book was wonderfully done. Dustwalk, the place where Amani grew up, is dull and lifeless to her; there is very little food or supplies and the only excess people have are guns. The places Amani and Jin see as they travel through the desert, and even Jin’s descriptions of the city he grew up in, are richly detailed. We see the world through Amani’s eyes; in Dustwalk we see her desire for more, to escape, but when she thinks of Izman we see the beauty of the city through her thoughts.

What I loved the most about the world-building of this book was the mythology and fantasy. The stories Amani and Jin share of the Djinn and the mortal women who ensnare them, of the Nightmares and the Goblins who hunt in the darkness. The history behind their world and the magical creatures they see as the norm is richly detailed and wonderfully described.

Rebel of the Sands was one of my most anticipated reads for this year, and I was beyond thrilled when I got an ARC of this book. Alwyn Hamilton did not disappoint. There were parts of this story, secrets that were revealed, that I did not see coming at all, but when I looked back everything added up and made sense in terms of the character development and the story.

What did you think of Rebel of the Sands? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

All quotes have been taken from an ARC and may differ in the final publication.

10 thoughts on “ARC Review: Rebel of the Sands

    1. I feel like sometime I go into too much depth 🙂 but I think that’s just the way I write.
      One of the things I liked most about this book, and the reason I gave it five stars other than the world-building of course, was the fact that the things that were revealed, around Amani’s parents and even Jin’s family, I honestly didn’t see coming. It was a complete twist for me.
      It’s a shame it took you so long to get into this book though, but I’m glad you started enjoying it when you did. I definitely prefered the second half of this book when more of the secondary characters actually came into play. Hopefully the second book won’t be as slow to kick into action 😀


      1. I enjoy reading detailed reviews, especially when I’ve read the book so I wouldn’t have to watch out for spoilers. 🙂

        Yeah, I definitely think things got a lot more interesting when there were other people as well instead of just Jin, who I wasn’t utterly captivated by.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well in that case thanks Reg! 😀 I do try and avoid spoilers in my reviews either way but sometimes there are things that I may not see as a spoiler but that I feel could be for someone else.
        I think also that’s when the plot seemed to speed up a little. Before it was just Amani trying to get to Izman but after the secondary characters, and their whole purpose, were introduced it felt like Amani had more direction and there was more of an interesting storyline to follow, if that makes sense.


      3. Reg is right–the depth of your review is great. Two thumbs up. =)

        I’m a little more than halfway through Rebel of the Sands now, and although the voice is enjoyable and the world is intriguing, I’m twiddling my thumbs waiting for Amani to have a goal–any goal–beyond “get to Izman” (and, I suppose, the shorter-term goal of “get the caravan people to safety”). It’s a relief to hear that things pick up in the second half!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Thanks so much Liam! 😀
        I’m glad your enjoying Rebel of the Sands so far. It does get better and Amani does get more of a goal past get to Izman and get the caravan people to safety soon. I really loved the world-building, it was one of my favourite parts of the book.
        This book is a slow-build one but based on the way it ends I’m thinking the next one in the series will pick up even more. It’s definitely worth staying with it through the slow beginning. You’ll have to let me know what you think when you’ve finished it.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. “This book is a slow-build one but based on the way it ends I’m thinking the next one in the series will pick up even more.”

        I finished the book last night, and I definitely agree with this statement! I suspect I’ll like the second book a lot more than I enjoyed this one. My fingers are crossed. =)

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Same here actually. I think the author had to get a lot of the world-building out of the way before developing the plot, but now that’s done I think the second book can jump right into where the first left off.
        I’m looking forwards to the second, I’m interested to see where the author takes the characters after the way the first book ended!

        Liked by 1 person

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