Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic. For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned, or female. Amani Al’Hiza is all three. She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can’t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she’s destined to wind up wed or dead.
Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she’s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she’d gallop away on mythical horse—or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew.
This startlingly original Middle-East-meets-Wild-West fantasy reveals what happens when a dream deferred explodes—in the fires of rebellion, of romantic passion, and the all-consuming inferno of a girl finally embracing her power.
Life is hell for Amani in the small town of Dustwalk, Miraji, where women have no rights at all. A year ago her mother was hanged for killing her abusive father and she had no choice but to move in with her equally abusive aunt and her uncle, who wishes for her to become another one of his wives. Her only escape lies in posing as a boy and competing in a shooting competition. If her perfect aim can win her the contest she'll have enough money to get out of town and travel to the capital to live with her mother's sister.
At the shooting competition she meets Jin, an attractive foreigner with nearly as good an aim as Amani's. When chaos erupts Jin gets her out of the bar/shooting venue and with nearly no money left to her name Amani is forced to return home, assuming she will never see Jin again.
Fate has other plans and Amani crosses paths with Jin again, except now Jin is wanted by the Miraji soldiers for treason. They escape Dustwalk together on a mythical horse made of sand called a Buraqi, but can Amani really trust Jin, a guy she barely knows who is hiding plenty of secrets? Will they be able to work together to escape from the soldiers that hunt for them at every turn? As they get to know one another better the lines between allies, friends, and something more begin to blur, but could they really have a future? Or will secrets and lies tear them apart? What does Jin know about Amani that he doesn't want her to find out?
When I first started reading Rebel of the Sands, I wasn't sure I was going to like it, but I quickly got swept away into the story. Amani is a badass character who knows her way around a gun and isn't afraid to defend herself, even though Jin keeps trying to swoop in and save her at every turn.
I found the clash of Wild West meets Middle East world building to be really unique, even though initially I thought that would be the one thing that would turn me off about the story - luckily it wasn't because I devoured this book quickly, not wanting to put it down until I found out what was going to happen next.
Rebel of the Sands was anything but predictable because I honestly did not see some of the twists coming, this story definitely kept me on my toes. Overall, if you're looking for an action-packed adventure with a strong female lead, strong supporting characters, and a swoon-worthy male lead, Rebel of the Sands is definitely the book to read. I can definitely see how it captured readers hearts and won best Debut Goodreads Author in the Goodreads Choice Awards for 2016! I'm excited to see how the story will continue in book two!
5 of 5 Stars!