Amani Al’Hiza is desperate to escape the tiny village of Dustwalk. Her best chance at making the money for the journey to Miraji’s capital is her gun. Dressed as a boy to enter a shooting contest, Amani makes an unlikely alliance with a mysterious foreigner. The contest ends in chaos, and Amani barely escapes with her life, let alone the prize money. When the foreigner, Jin, reappears on the run from the Sultan’s army, Amani knows it could be dangerous to help, but she can’t shake the idea that Jin may be able to help her in return.
The nation of Miraji and its rivals are rooted in geopolitical themes from our own world, adding to the sense that Amani’s journey takes place within an ancient and well-established society. Most impressive, though, is author Alwyn Hamilton’s care not to conflate the danger and poverty Amani wants to leave behind with the Miraji culture as a whole. Amani’s respect for the legends and myths of her people and her explicit pride in being “a desert girl” show the beauty of Miraji, rather than making it a wasteland to escape at all costs.
The stakes are raised significantly in the final third of the novel, which may disappoint readers who were enjoying the relative realism of Amani’s quest. However, this brilliantly executed plot twist will thrill readers anxious for true fantasy.
In Rebel of the Sands, Hamilton creates a robust mixture of gritty reality and fantasy, delivering a satisfying beginning to what promises to be an electrifying series.