Series: Rebel of the Sands #1
Published by: Faber and Faber Ltd
ISBN 13: 9780571325252
Published: February 2016
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Three out of Five
Amani needs to get out of the little village she was born in. Losing both her mother and father at a young age means she’s had to join her uncle’s household, where she can’t always avoid the attention of his many wives and her many cousins. It’s likely she’ll be married off to a man while she’s still quite young, and she’ll have to count herself lucky if that man is around her own age – and even then, it’s slim pickings of men who haven’t already been awful to her.
She’s trained her sharp shooting skills in order to have some leverage to escape the village – whether it’s winning money in a bar, or being able to join a caravan as protection for their luggage (disguised as a boy throughout, of course). It’s at the first attempt that she runs into an outlaw, a foreigner who has a deadly smile and seems to be her best way out of the town that she starts feeling hope again… however this is soon dashed as it’s realised what she’s done, and soon her only option will be the noose for her crimes.
This book has everything – mythical creatures and djinni, a female MC who has handy skills that are almost believable (but not quite… if guns are hard to get hold of because of a shortage of materials then I highly doubt bullets are easy to get hold of), and it has an interesting selection of characters that feel fully formed – not that we get to see much of them.
So why didn’t I love this book as I assumed I would? I think it has something to do with the fact that it feels like it’s trying to be an accurate Middle-Eastern fantasy, but comes across more as an American-style mid-Western wannabe-cowboy ‘thang’. I couldn’t feel any kind of connection with the characters, their relationship felt more out of necessity than any kind of spark (other than ‘oh wow he’s hot the end’), and everything felt a bit easy, some of the time. I couldn’t visualise the plot happening as it seemed like ‘this is happening, and now I won and it’s done’, which doesn’t help the reader feel like any exertion was necessary.
That said, the start up was good… and then the middle is a fairly long and uneventful ‘road’ trip, and then doesn’t pick up again until the end which does almost save it, but possibly not enough for this book to be memorable or for me to continue with the series. Which is a shame, as the cover at least is stunning.