Rebel of the Sands is one of those books that I just loved reading so much—and read so fast—that I didn’t take good notes about what I wanted to write in a review. Partly because I didn’t want to stop reading long enough to actually take notes! But here we go anyway!
Rebel of the Sands is the story of Amani, a young Miraji girl who lives in Dustwalk, a desert town that lives up to every expectation of the “typical” desert town, including a semi-regular shooting contest in the town bar (that is, until it burns to the ground one night).
Amani, a poor orphan, has figured out how to get out of her town: she’ll shoot her way out of it. She’s the best shot of anyone in her town, and she’s about to prove it—but not so that anyone close to her knows. She’s participating in the shooting contest, but undercover as “The Blue-Eyed Bandit.” She does win—and secures herself a way out of town, only not quite the way she’d planned. Thanks to a stranger, Jin, Amani is about to learn far more about her city and country—and herself—than she ever planned.
The question is what she will choose to do with that knowledge, and whether she will let herself begin to believe in things that she only thought possible.
The world Hamilton created is stunning, as is the mythology she’s based that world on. I very much appreciated her not-so-subtle critique of patriarchal social structures, and her equally unsubtle critique of corrupt governments and what they have the power to do—and what they can destroy.
I also liked Amani’s character; her development over the course of the novel, from rebellious teen who wants to escape to rebellious teen with a much higher purpose, was clear and well-defined, as were her relationships with others.
This was my favorite passage, as I feel like it sums up not only the novel, but also my general feeling about what it means to read and love stories:
Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic. For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned, or female.
Amani Al’Hiza is all three. She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can’t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she’s destined to wind up wed or dead.
Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she’s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she’d gallop away on mythical horse—or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew.
Rebel of the Sands reveals what happens when a dream deferred explodes—in the fires of rebellion, of romantic passion, and the all-consuming inferno of a girl finally, at long last, embracing her power.