Dustwalk itself, however, is far from magical. It's a dirt poor, dead-end town where it's a daily struggle just to survive. The warmongering Sultan who rules them is power-hungry, wanting only to control more land and subjugate the surrounding populations. One of his sons, however, is determined to stop his reign of terror. Known as the Rebel Prince, no one knows where Ahmed's stronghold is, or where he'll strike next, but his rebel forces are increasing in number.
That's all pretty irrelevant to Amani though. She just wants to get out of Dustwalk. Which is how she finds herself lined up in a shooting pit, disguised as a boy, competing against other sharp-shooters for prize money. Things quickly go wrong, and it's only with the help of a foreigner, and fellow competitor, that she escapes with her life. It's not long before she decides that her best chance of getting out of Dustwalk is to stick with the enigmatic Jin. But as his path seems to take her closer and closer to the heart of the rebellion against the Sultan, Amani is forced to reconsider everything she's ever known about her world — even her identity.
Rebel of the Sands is the first book in a trilogy by debut author Alwyn Hamilton that caused a frenzy when rights to the manuscript were snapped up in an international auction. That enthusiasm wasn't misplaced. This is a sweeping tale of adventure and romance that combines engaging characters with a taut, well-plotted storyline. It ticks every 'how to write a bestseller' box but it does so without feeling contrived or forced. The action never stops, but the book isn't a breathless sprint from start to finish; there's time to get to know Amani and Jin, to care about them and explore their complexities. There is a freshness and originality to Rebel of the Sands that kept me turning pages well past my bedtime.
I will be keeping my fingers tightly crossed that the next two books in the series are just as good.
Title: Rebel of the Sands
Author: Alwyn Hamilton
Publisher: Faber & Faber, $16.99 RRP
Publication Date: March 2016
For ages: 12+
Type: Young Adult Fiction