How many teenagers do you know? Of those that you know, how many want to escape their hometown? To overcome their circumstances and find something better, something bigger than their beginnings? This novel by Alwyn Hamilton will speak directly into the heart of anyone who has ever wanted to escape or rise above where they started. It goes without saying that it spoke to me.
More than this, it speaks to the idea that we all have something special about us that we might overlook due to our upbringing and childhood circumstances. Amani is a young woman who grew up learning to shoot a gun as well as a man – raised by her aunt and uncle because her mother was hanged for murder – and is now facing marriage or escape. The setting is very Middle Eastern and includes a vast desert, calls to prayer, and multiple wives/harems, so prepare yourself for an environment that is not very woman-friendly.
Her salvation comes in the form of a foreign stranger, Jin, who also needs to escape – but from the approaching army seeking to capture not only him but one of the First Beings which reside in the remote desert of Amani’s birth. This world contains humans, Djinni, Ghouls, Nightmares – many magical creatures that interact with humans in both positive and negative ways. You will also learn about Demdji, the children borne of human mothers and Djinni fathers endowed with dangerous special abilities.
The Sultan at the center of all of this has a multitude of children who have taken sides, either with the Sultim (the heir apparent) or with the rogue Prince Ahmed, who is leading a rebellion to reclaim the throne from his father who seems to be giving too much power to neighboring countries. He promises a new dawn, and a new desert.
A war for the heart of a country, magical beings, a heroine discovering her own abilities (both personal and magical), extreme danger, all set in the middle of a never ending desert? SIGN ME UP YES PLEASE.
I think I enjoyed this more than An Ember in the Ashes, which is similar in taste and setting, although not completely. I am moving to the sequel to Rebel faster than I’ve moved to Ember’s #2, and I couldn’t really tell you definitively why that is. I think I liked the main character better, and the plot seems less cookie cutter rebellion like Ember or even Legend. There is also something to say about the fact that I couldn’t put this one down.
A fantastic beginning to what promises to be a lush, magical series. Go get you some.