Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This book disappointed me. I thought it would be right up my alley, but that turned out not to be true.
It started out strong. It began as a sort of Western/Arabian Nights mashup, with the Western part predominating. There are guns, and weapons factories, and trains; there are also gods, and First Beings, and djinni--and halfbreed children sired by djinni--and other mystical energy creatures such as Buraqi, the equivalent of a horse that can be caged by iron. (The Buraqi were the best part of the book, and I wish the storyline had focused more on them in some fashion.) There is a displaced prince, a rebellion ("A new dawn. A new desert."), and a clash of science, magic and religion. There's a sixteen-year-old protagonist, Amani, a sort of Arabian Nights Calamity Jane who has taught herself to shoot and desperately wishes to escape her backwards, misogynistic town and society. She meets up with a secretive foreigner, Jin, who turns out to be the brother of the Rebel Prince, and gets involved in the rebellion. Many fights and shootouts and a few deaths later, along with some revelations about Amani's parentage, the rebellion wins its first battle and is on its way.
This may work for some people, but it did not work for me. The writing is okay and the characters adequate, although not terribly deep. What spoiled the book, as far as I am concerned, is the clumsy worldbuilding. The further along I got in the book, and the more it tended towards the Arabian Nights end of the spectrum, the less believable it became. By the later chapters, we're deep into the rebellion, and the half-Djinni children show their various powers (shape-shifting and illusion-casting, among others), and of course Amani is revealed to be a half-Djinni (or Demdji) whose power is to manipulate sand and make it do things, such as forming shapes that, for instance, grab her and keep her from going over a cliff...my suspension of disbelief shattered completely over that one. I realize this is supposed to be a fantasy, but the disparate parts simply do not blend.
Somewhere, there may be a Western/Arabian Nights combo that succeeds. It's not this book, unfortunately.
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