From the Back Cover:
She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.
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.
Rebel of the Sands is set in a fantasy world based on the ancient Middle East, when desert tribes believed in tales of the djinn and other mythological creatures. Amani is a poor girl in a poor mining town, an orphan who relies on the mercy of her aunt and uncle, scrapping with her many cousins, subsisting on hand-me-downs and smaller rations, spending all her free time practicing her shooting in the desert. But it's all she's got, so she makes the best of it. Until her uncle starts eyeing her with an interest in taking her as another wife. So Amani dresses like a boy and enters a sharpshooting competition. The prize money will be her ticket out of Dustwalk and into the wider world, where she can live life on her own terms. But she doesn't count on Jin, the mysterious outsider who is almost as good a shot as she is, or the crooked sponsors rigging the competition, or the rebel prince's followers showing up, or the brawl that sends the whole place up in flames, or the magical horse she captures, or the soldiers who come looking for Jin the next day. Seeing this handsome boy on the run as her only remaining chance to get out of town, she flees with him into the night, and so begins her epic journey.
The plot has some twists and turns, and it's wonderfully original, so I'm not going to provide a recap and risk spoiling the pleasure of reading it for you. This is an imaginative and exciting story, filled with action, adventure, danger, girl power, and of course, romance. But it's also filled with captivating description and poetic beauty, and the mythology of it and the tales told around caravan campfires imbue it with such a mystical ambiance, and the desert is like a character itself. A living, breathing, shifting creature that is both the giver and taker of life. It all adds up to a gripping, immersive reading experience.
I was really loving this for three-quarters of the book. I loved Amani, how tough she was in spite of her fears, how determined she was to make a better life for herself, how smart and sharp and resourceful she was. I loved her relationship with Jin, how they really became best friends who watched each other's back. But then, when their journey dumped them in the last place she ever expected to be, the rebel camp, Amani found out a truth about herself that fundamentally changed who she was. And it kind of took the wind out of my sails. I probably should have seen it coming, but I didn't, so kudos to the author for that. But I couldn't help but feel that it wasn't necessary. She was amazing as she was. Fortunately, Jin agreed with me, and I'm glad he called Amani out on how she chose to define herself after learning the truth. But that's really my only quibble with this book, and it's one that seems to be unique to me. If you're a fan of strong heroines, folklore, and exotic locations and are looking for something unique and memorable in YA, this is it. I am very much looking forward to the sequel.
My Rating: 4 Stars out of 5
*Please Note: This review references an advance copy received from the publisher through the Amazon Vine program. These are my honest and unbiased opinions, and I was not compensated in any other way for reviewing this book.