Rebel of the Sands was not the Western, gun-slinging saloon shoot out I was expecting. There were guns, train heists and showdowns, but there was so much more to the story than that. The town of Dustwalk is home to the people who have spent their lives amidst an endless sea of sand. Amina is one of those people, but her blue eyes mark her out as something different. Girls are considered the property of the men in their family, and with both her parents gone, Amina’s future is set to be decided by her uncle. But when she sneaks out at night dressed as a boy, to win a sharpshooting competition so she can escape to freedom, she inadvertently teams up with her opponent, Jin the Eastern Snake, when things don’t go to plan. Their chance meeting pulls her into a rebellion against the Sultan, led by one of his own sons. She has always wondered what the world has to offer, but her journey with Jin makes her consider what she might have to offer the world.
Amina is the strong, determined heroine I’ve been waiting for. She does what she needs to do to survive, but she has a deep affection for her friends. She makes mistakes, but she learns from them and as the novel progresses, she becomes more aware of the people around her and how her actions might affect them. She initially sees Jin as a temporary ally, a way to get out of the town she is trapped in, but their journey sets the foundation for friendship, and perhaps something deeper. Despite that, her feelings for Jin never distract her from what she knows she has to do. Time and again she proves why she shouldn’t be underestimated because of her gender.
The combination of cultures made it a unique and engaging story, a world where there are Djinns and guns, magic and metal. It was a world that felt familiar and unusual at the same time. Beneath the tales of Nightmares, and horses from the sand, there is also a sense that it’s a place where poverty, inequality and prejudice have become unbearable. The people in the towns and cities outside the capital are ruthless because they have to be. Women are oppressed, anyone seen to be different or think differently is persecuted, and it seems unsurprising that those people who have been neglected and unfairly punished by the Sultan and his army, have started to rise up. Revolution is coming, and you can taste it in the air.
Rebel of the Sands is a fantasy adventure that offers something new and a heroine you can root for.