Title: Rebel of the Sands
Author: Alwyn Hamilton
Okay, I’m going to hold my hands up here and confess that I bought this book because of the cover. I’m so ashamed! But, to be fair, it is a stunningly beautiful cover with gold foil and the kind of blues that you want to spend the rest of your life looking at. Even if I hadn’t read Rebel of the Sands, I would have just kept it on my shelf for its cover alone.
Right, enough about the cover! Mind you, I do have one large piece of beef about the cover: it’s got one of those irritating and unremovable circles with ‘Like Katniss? Love Rey? Meet Amani’ written on it. Ga! I hate these things! Could you announce any louder that you’re being a me-tooing, bandwagoning, other-people’s-work-leeching publisher? It’s nothing to do with the author, but it’s lazy marketing on the part of the publisher. And the fact that I can’t remove this really burns. It doesn’t even need it! The marketplace is flooded with strong, butt-kicking heroines. The blurb on the back of the book is enough to tell me Rebel of the Sands features another one. I don’t need to be patronised by the obvious!
But, in reality, that little unremovable circle sums up a problem that I have with Rebel of the Sands. The desert setting and Middle-Eastern flavour were a big selling point to me for this one. It’s not unheard of, but it’s pretty rare in this genre, and I was hoping to find myself breathing in one heck of a lungful of fresh air. But actually, apart from the setting, there is quite a healthy helping of deja vu here.
Strong heroine with a few broken bits meets handsome stranger who rescues her from a dire future and takes her to a place where she discovers she has magical powers and a mythical parent and might be the key to ridding the world of evil. Oh, and by the way, the handsome stranger turns out to be a prince. Shucks.
I’ve heard it before. In fact, I’ve heard it a thousand times before, in every other female-oriented YA book.
However, there are some redeeming features to Rebel of the Sands, and these are the reasons I gave it so many as four stars despite my rant. Firstly, the writing is excellent. It pulls you in right from the first chapter, and it was really the opening few chapters that kept me churning through to the end despite my growing disappointment in an over-hashed plot line. Amani has an engaging point of view, and it’s this point of view that brings me to another feature I liked: gender discrimination. No, I don’t mean I’m in favour of gender discrimination, I mean that Hamilton really explores a world where women are treated with great inferiority compared to men. It’s the kind of exploration that gets my hackles up and has me hissing and spitting in my head. It’s a long way from Western countries, but it’s important that we stay aware of inequality around the world and that especially young readers have a taste of how it is for others. When you are looking through the eyes of woman in an unequal world, it makes you want to appreciate what you have more and fight harder for those who don’t have it and keep fighting until genuine equality is achieved. Forget the story, this is actually one of the key takeaways of this book for me, and sometimes there are more important things in a book than the superficial plot.
I will be reading the other books in this series because I think (at least, I hope) there will be more important things to come. And who knows, maybe the story will acquire some novelty, and I’ll be even happier. You can’t know what a pie tastes like until you’ve eaten it, after all.