Books To Binge: Rebels In The Sand by Alwyn Hamilton

I confess: I only read this because Alwyn Hamilton was a Guest of Honour at SFeraKon. I have not read the Hunger Games nor Divergent either. I worked at a Croatian publishing house when The Maze Runner was all the craze and I did read that. Did not love it.

I don’t know. All of the above make fine movies, which I did watch, and enjoy, as books – no spark whatsoever. I would say dystopia was not my cup of tea, but then I really, really, loved the Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (there’s been a half done review of that whole series in my drafts forever!) and the Legend series by Marie Lu, so I do not dislike dystopia.

Rebel of the Sands also had another thing working against it: the nomads in the sands land let’s do a Middle Easter culture vibe – at least in the cover blurb – that was sure to make me give it a skip. I grew up in a country where Muslims were neighbours and cousins, and there is nothing sinister about them. The current hate the world over is not a welcome reminder of how strained the relationship with neighbours and cousins can get when assholes warmonger, be it in the Balkans or in New Zealand.

Having said all that, I ended up liking Amani and her adventures quite a bit. It took me a while to get into it – it is hard to suspend disbelief when you have very specific ideas about what djinns are and what they are not. But when I did, I found it an enjoyable read, without half as much weight as I had expected.

I enjoyed the main character’s positive, go-getting attitude (so not the Balkan style), her freshness and her persistence. And I did not mind the love story at all and I especially did not mind the lack of a love triangle. The part where he is a prince and they both instantly fall in love with each other even though they are positioned to annoy one another and obstruct each other’s paths and desires, well that’s just typical romance and I do love to read romance in genre.

As I read on, I realized that even though the main characters is touted as a heroine who has progressed in being badass – as this reviewer put it, from mind to bow to gun – what I really like and appreciate in Amani and the plot that revolves around her is that she starts out using her unique skillset in order to escape a bad situation, progresses to building a future for herself and then makes serious steps in making one for everyone. (Again, so not the Balkan style!) Also, so very much, I realized when I was writing this, what I had loved so much about Uglies.

Rebellion is forever cool, and I learned to love it from Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, and in a number of YA books in Biblioteka Vjeverica (Squirrel Editions) that featured writers from all over the world, as well as many local ones. I can only hope Rebel in the Sands will do the same for young women growing up now, even though I had hoped that female representation in a patriarchal world would have evolved since I was a child. But, as someone pointed out to me, the world has devolved and the rights and the status quo I had taken as a given were a utopia that blew up in flames as I was growing up.



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