This is such a fun book! It is what I consider to be classic YA in its tone and pacing. Amani is itching to leave Dustwalk, her small desert village and takes off with Jin, a stranger she meets in a sharpshooting competition. They encounter many dangers during their journey. I enjoyed the banter between the two main characters as well as the mythology Hamilton weaves into the tale.
4.3 stars on Amazon
3.96 stars on Goodreads
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Point of View
This book is written in first person from Amani’s point of view.
This book is set in a fictional desert nation filled with rebellion and magic.
– Amani – a teenage sharpshooter who is restless living in her small desert town
– Jin – a foreign boy who has many talents and many secrets
– Naguib – the Sultan’s son who is working to root out rebellion
– Ahmed – the rebel prince who is hoping to overthrow the Sultan
***** Everything below is a SPOILER *****
What happened in Rebel of the Sands?
Amani wants to escape her dead-end life in Dustwalk. Her mother and no-good father are both dead. She lives with her aunt, uncle, and cousins. Her uncle wants to take her as one of his many wives. Her aunt wants to marry her off. Amani wants to travel to Izmud, a far off city her mother used to tell her stories about. She hopes to find her long-lost Aunt Safiyah there.
Amani takes the money she’s saved to enter a gun-slinging contest in Deadshot. She disguises herself as a boy. She easily advances to the final round against the house champion and foreign boy (the Eastern Snake). Between rounds, Amani talks to the foreigner. The competition is rigged. The house will make a lot of money if the champion wins once again.
They must shoot a bottle off the head of a kid to win. Amani and the foreigner worry about Dahmad’s aim. They volunteer to shoot the bottle off each other’s head instead. They tell the proprietor they’ll miss and let Dahmad win for a small amount of money. Dahmad wants to shoot. Amani crashes into Dahmad as he shoots at the foreigner’s head. The crowd erupts. A drunk knocks a lantern over. The stands catch on fire. Amani and the foreigner escape.
The next morning Amani opens the family’s store for business. The Sultan’s army and their hired Gallan soldiers arrive to sort out what happened in Deadshot last night. The foreigner pops into the store to hide. He’s been shot. Amani hides him behind the shop counter and lies to the soldiers. They’re in town looking for a mercenary wanted for treason.
Amani tends to his wound and wonders what his tattoos mean. They exchange names. He tells her the commander is Naguib, the Sultan’s son. Amani asks Jin to take her with him.
A rare Buraqi, a sand horse that can be turned into a real steed by a girl, was spotted. A huge chase ensues. Amani ends up catching the horse, thus making it flesh.
Dustwalk throws a party to celebrate the horse’s capture. Fazim, the boy who has been pursuing her cousin, asks Amani to marry him. He was in Deadshot and saw her compete in the contest. He will stay quiet about it if she agrees. He wants the money she will profit from the Buraqi. Her cousin Shira walks up on them.
Amani runs home to pack a bag to leave instead of marrying to someone in town. Jin is not in the shop. Her friend Tamid spots her. He’s sad she’s leaving and wasn’t going to say goodbye. He asks her to marry him. She says she has to leave town. He’s hurt.
Fazim tells the soldiers Amani was with the foreigner in Deadshot. Fazim tells them to torture Tamid to get information of her. They shoot him in the knee. Amani is heartbroken. Jin rides through the crowd on the Buraqi to rescue her.
The Buraqi takes them a full day’s ride in a few hours to Sazi. Amani discovers Jin was the one who blew up the weapons factory in Dustwalk while she was catching the horse. She asks if he blew up the mines here in Sazi, but he heard it was an accident. He knows she’s the Blue-Eyed Bandit from the sharpshooting competition.
Jin says he’s not headed to Izman. She assumed they were heading the same way. She slips enough pain pills (which Tamid had given her) into Jin’s drink to knock him out.
Amani heads to Juniper City to catch a train. She’s disguised as a boy again and accidentally buys a first class ticket. She eats a rich meal and naps in her compartment. She wakes with an upset stomach and heads to a hall window for fresh air.
Her cousin Shira emerges from a cabin. Amani isn’t the only one wanting to escape Dustwalk. Naguib soon emerges from the same cabin. He chases Amani through the train, hoping to find Jin. She is surprised to see Jin in a passenger compartment. They sneak into an alcove and pretend to kiss as the soldiers run by. Jin asks her for the compass, which was among the things she stole from him. She doesn’t understand why the broken thing is important and returns it. The soldiers reappear. Jin jumps off the moving train, pulling Amani with him.
They walk along the rails toward the next town. Jin tells her Izman is even worse than Dustwalk. He will to walk to Massil and meet up with a caravan to make the journey through the mountains. He says she could get to Izman from there. Amani agrees to go with him. They pose as brothers and eventually get hired to travel with the group. They travel through the desert. Amani and Jin get to know each other better as they walk. Occasionally, Jin accidentally mentions personal information, like having a brother.
Their first destination, Dasama, has been bombed and burned to the ground. Not a soul is alive. The men argue about what to do. Jin thinks they should go to Fahali, just two days away. Everyone is reluctant because of the crime there. But it’s their only real choice.
Jin tells Amani there is a train that goes straight to Izman only a few hours walk away from Fahali. Amani doesn’t want to leave Jin. The Fahali city guards and Gallan soldiers search the whole caravan.
Jin tells Amani there’s a train straight to Izman tomorrow. She asks him to come with her instead of searching for the bomb. He agrees. They can’t leave the caravan behind to be bullied by the soldiers.
Amani goes to get information on the prison. She sees Naguib and the Gallan commander. She’s afraid Naguib will recognize her and escapes into a prayer house. It’s where Noorsham, a blue-eyed soldier she recognizes from Dustwalk, is holding a skinwalker.
The two commanders come into the prayer house to execute the skinwalker. They talk about how the Sultan’s rebel son is gaining a stronger foothold all the time. General Dumas threatens Naguib. When they leave, Amani tells Noorsham she can get him out of trouble if he’ll tell her where the prison is.
Amani sees a stable full of Buraqi horses and frees them all by removing their iron. Jin says they must run. They lead the escaping caravan through the desert overnight. Nightmare creatures attack. Amani uses all her bullets. After her last shot, a Nightmare lands on Jin’s chest and sinks its venomous fangs in. Parviz, the leader of the caravan, says they will not hold up their travel for Jin because he’s as good as dead.
Amani tried to press the venom out of the wound, but some of it has entered Jin’s blood. He’s not making any sense and weak. They lose the caravan’s tracks. Amani doesn’t know what to do. Jin is lucid for a moment and says to use his compass. She doesn’t understand why it’s pointing west but follows it.
It leads them to a canyon. Amani makes a slow descent, helping Jin the whole way. They hear someone coming at the canyon base river and hide. It’s a Gallan soldier, who stops briefly for a drink.
They reach a dead end. The canyon walls are covered with vivid paintings of mythical creatures and a stone door. The Gallan soldier appears behind them. It’s a skinwalker wearing the flesh of its most recent kill.
Amani tries to open the door. It won’t budge. She whispers Sakhr, the only word she can think of, against the lock. Jin always got wrong this name wrong in a famous childhood story. It doesn’t work. The skinwalker attacks, biting her neck. The painted door opens and a beautiful woman appears. She kills the skinwalker. Amani faints.
Amani awakes in a tent. Her wound is bandaged. Jin is on the cot beside her, breathing shallowly. Amani quietly slips out of the tent, not waking Jin or the sleeping boy in the corner.
The world outside is colorful and teeming with people. The largest tent in the camp is emblazoned with the same sun image from Jin’s tattoo. Amani steps inside and sees a young man pouring over a map. A compass like Jin’s sits beside him. He is Ahmed, the rebel prince. Amani grips the knife she brought with her.
Shazad steps in and puts a gun to her head until Amani drops the weapon. Bahi appears, relieved his patient has been found. Delila, the Djinni’s young daughter, runs in. She’s the one from the stories. She changes her hair to black for normalcy.
Amani asks them if Jin has any other relatives she should know about. They realize he hadn’t told her who he was. She tells them what Jin has been up to since she’s been with him. They ask her what weapons and capabilities the Gallan soldiers and the Sultan have. Imin, a Demdji who can shift her appearance as needed, is going to the enemy as a spy. Both Djinni and Demdji are children born of Djinn and mortal women.
Amani goes to check on Jin. Prince Ahmed is there. He has the same tattoo as Jin on his chest. He tells Amani their compasses are magically linked to always lead back to each other. He tells her how Jin’s mother Lien rescuing him, Jin, and Delila after his mother died. Lien and the three of them roamed the world and saw different societies and their strengths and weaknesses. Ahmed decided his country deserved better than his father as dictator. He says Jin has never risked his life to save anyone except family until Amani.
Amani learns Shazad’s father is a general for the Sultan but has recently turned against him. Bahi was in the Holy Order but got kicked out for getting drunk and serenading Shazad outside her father’s house. Hale, another Demdji, has been spying and reports to them as they’re eating.
Jin appears, leaning heavily on his brother as he walks. Delila rushes into his arms before Amani can. Hala brings up the fact that Amani is a Demdji of some sort. Amani can tell Jin knows and is furious. Her eyes give her away, plus he noticed she can’t lie. He dares her to try. She slaps him and runs away.
Amani goes to the armory. Ahmed finds her there. Jin sent him to follow her so she didn’t get lost in the desert. She asks if she’s a prisoner. She’s not, but if she stays the other Demdji can help her discover her skills. She doesn’t have any luck. Jin tries to act like everything’s fine. Amani ignores him.
Amani asks Delilia why Jin didn’t compete in the Sultim trials. He’s never been interested in ruling or power. He would rather live in one of the places they traveled to instead of Miraji. Delila says Jin never fought for or loved anything besides his family until now. Amani is embarrassed.
Amani borrow Shazad’s clothes for the Shihabian celebration. During one dance, Amani ends up in Jin’s arms. He leaves the party to sit by himself and drink. Amani confronts him about his lies. She doesn’t like that he tried to send her away several times to keep her safe. He doesn’t like that she has been feeling worthless since she can’t find her Demdhi powers. He says she’s not defined by them.
They get word that Naguib is nearby and must have the annihilation weapon with him. Jin, Amani, Shazad, Bahi, Hala, and Izz leave camp. They arrive at the spot where they’ll see the train approaching. They plan to set traps but then see the train is running ahead of schedule. They jump aboard.
Naguib arrives with his men. Amani and Shazad are captured. The others are caught. Bahi speaks up to save Shazad and is turned to ashes. Noorsham, Naguib’s secret weapon, is covered in bronze. He wants to talk to Amani in private. He’s the one who burned down the mine on the day he discovered his Demdji gift. He was angry his mother sold his sister as a whore to the mining men. The Sultan’s men found him huddled by the mountain and brought him in. Amani says they’re just using him as a weapon. If he joins Ahmed, he’ll be viewed as a person. Naguib comes looking for Noorsham. Amani jumps off the train.
Dozens of sand hands grab Amani. Her power is over sand. She almost loses control for a second and sand swirls around her, ready to suffocate her. Jin appears and presses an iron bullet into her arm to bring her back. Iron in the guns she perpetually carried had kept her power at bay. She realizes Noorsham is her brother. She wants to stop his advances on the Gallans.
How did Rebel of the Sands end?
Amani decides to leave camp in the middle of the night. Everyone else is actually awake. They all leave together. Noorsham meets the illusion of soldiers Hala has created. He blasts them with fire and heat. Ahmed is coming. Noorsham sees him and starts that way. Amani shoots Noorsham in the chest. He knocks Amani off her feet with his fire power. She falls, but the sand reaches up to catch her to soften it.
The two fight, his fire against her sand wall. An iron bullet grazes her calf. Amani loses grip on her power. General Dumas steps behind her with a gun pointed at her. Noorsham saves Amani. Then she saves him when a Gallan soldier takes aim. Noorsham ends up attackihg Naguib. Noorsham escapes. The city of Fahali is saved. Ahmed is acting princely and orders some soldiers they captured to take a message to his father. He says to tell the Sultan these are his people. If he comes after them, Ahmed will fight him.
There you go! That’s what happened in Rebel of the Sands, the first book in this series. Traitor to the Throne, book 2, is set to be released March 7, 2017!
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