Rebel of the Sands written by Alwyn Hamilton is a YA Western with middle eastern influences. There’s gun slinging, there’s magic and of course there is a love story. I really enjoyed the first half of the novel which sets up our main character Amani as a bad-ass cross dressing camel of the desert who wants nothing more then to leave the tiny town she comes from. She gives up everything for this – even lets people she loves die – and will stop for literally nothing. Of course, that is until she meets Jin, handsome as he is, and she finds out she has a heart after all. I wasn’t blown away by this novel, but I did love the world that Hamilton build. It’s filled with magic, myth and mostly sand and I can imagine all the mentions of djinni and demdji can be a little confusing at first. To unconfuse you, I’ve created a helpful little guide to the mythology of Rebel of the Sands – or at least how I understand things to be.
Buraqi: The most awesome horses you can imagine that aren’t also unicorns. Think horses made out of sand and fire that run like the wind and never seem to get tired. Unfortunately they are dumb like regular horses and get caught by humans who bind them with iron. However, they are the highlight of this series to me so please can I have one?
Rocs: Big predatory birds that are magical creatures like the Buraqi. I kind of ignored the description, so in my head they look like giant pterodactyls that have feathers and a more bird-like face. So just giant birds I guess…
Djinni: Idiotic men made of magic. They all fall in love with women who abuse them for their power and riches. At the same time they also sleep around a lot, make babies with so many women and then leave the kids to deal on their own.
Demdji: The spawn of djinni. They all have strange powers and a visible ‘tell’ that sets them apart from everyone else. This goes from having the power to morph into fearsome creatures while also having blue skin, to having blue eyes and the power to destroy worlds. Somehow these things don’t seem to match. Also Demdji – just like djinni – can’t lie. But they also make things happen by saying them. I’m still a little unsure of how this works, but I guess we’ll have book 2 to figure that out.
Shihabian: Some kind of weird celebration ritual where the world goes from normal to completely dark in mere seconds. It had something to do with The Destroyer of Worlds and the First Beings that had a war of some sort, but in practice you just get drunk until it gets dark and then you pray like your life depends on it.
Nightmares: Ghostly bats (again I ignored the actual description) who will bite you straight in the heart just to inject black venom into your body which will give you – you guessed it – nightmares. Aptly named creatures! Also, when you don’t get treated after a bite, you die because of the hallucinations their venom causes, so maybe don’t act too lackadaisical about nightmares, OK?
Skinwalkers: I don’t want to be judgmental, because skinwalkers might be kind as well, but the one in Rebel of the Sands gave me the creeps. It devours your flesh and then takes on your form, just so it can eat everyone else around you. It’s like The Thing, but then in the desert and no one is smart enough to figure out who is real and who isn’t even though it’s so easy to weed them out. These bad boys hate light of any kind, so just hold up your lighter and see who flinches.
If you find yourself immersed in the desert, I hope my guide will be of help! Let me know if the comments what you thought of Rebel of the Sands and whether or not you’re looking forward to the sequel!
Review Copy attained through Netgalley with special thanks to the publisher Faber and Faber.