Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton, published by Faber on 4th February 2016
Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there's nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can't wait to escape from.
Destined to wind up "wed or dead," Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she'd gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan's army, with a fugitive who's wanted for treason. And she'd never have predicted she'd fall in love with him...or that he'd help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.
This is the first in a trilogy by debut author Alwyn Hamilton. I wanted to love it so much! The pre-publicity buzz has been stellar and it sounded exactly like the sort of story that I usually enjoy - a YA story with a strong female character at its centre, magical djinnis, a desert setting and an epic romance. It should have knocked me off my feet...but sadly it didn't.
I know so many other readers have enjoyed this book, so I think that I'm among the minority that didn't. The first chapter got off to a great start and thinks were looking good, but it didn't push on from there. I found that the first half was extremely slow, there were too many fantasy elements layered together and I failed to feel any romantic sparks at all between the two leads.
The main character Amani, wants to escape her home of Dustwalk and the fate that awaits her there. She is tough and fierce and determined to find a new life for herself whatever it takes. Set in the swirling desert, Amani flees with a mysterious foreigner by her side. Danger and adventure lie ahead of them.
Sadly, although the premise sounds great, fantastic in fact, this one just wasn't for me. It promised so much but failed to deliver the knockout punch that I was looking for. Admittedly, it did pick up a little right at the end, but I'm not sure that I have much interest at all in reading the sequel.