4.5 out of 5 stars
Two words: SPACE WESTERN!
Talk about starting in the middle of the action. Alwyn Hamilton’s blisteringly-paced Rebel of the Sands opens with teen girl Amani, in disguise, joining a sharpshooting contest in a disreputable space saloon in a dead-end town. It’s like a YA episode of “Firefly.” I was practically panting from the first page.
The world of Miraji weaves sci-fi with magic: mythical beasts still appear, as much to the wonder of the characters as the readers. Spirits exist, sultans rule the desert land, and armies march to battle wielding demons. Amani finds herself in the midst of it all when she flees a queasy forced-marriage situation (the bane of every YA heroine) with a dark stranger (him again) on the back of an elemental magic horse (okay, that’s pretty new).
Rebel of the Sands is as much political as it is adventure, an examination of both what makes a person and what constitutes family. Miraji is as it sounds: so sharply drawn, lavishly colored, and lethally deceptive, it could almost be a mirage itself.
Amani flees her supposed family, and finds not only a new one, but her real one as well. Her mysterious stranger, Jin, has many of the standard YA secrets: secret mission, heart of gold, is really a prince. (Honestly, does this come in a kit?) But Rebel of the Sands is not nearly as rote as that may sound. It’s awash in descriptive beauty. You feel heat when they’re hot, fear when they’re afraid. The desperation of a backwater existence, the escape, the shock of learning a place isn’t better just because it’s new.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s short too, and since I could barely put it down, over too quickly. Luckily, Traitor to the Throne (Rebel of the Sands #2) is already out. How I’ll make it from there to the expected 2018 date for book 3? Unclear. Unlikely.