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Five reasons why you should read Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Posted on 25th February 2016 by Kate Neilan
One of our Waterstones Loves titles this month is Rebel of the Sands. Guest blogger Kate Neilan gives five reasons why it is a YA title not to be missed.

It’s set in the Wild East

Rebel of the Sands opens in a town called Deadshot, with a dusty main street, populated by gun-toting bar-goers - surely you’re guessing this is New Mexico or California? You’d be wrong. In fact we’re in a reimagined Middle East and that sets the tone for this thrilling, inventive YA debut novel by Alwyn Hamilton. Hamilton takes our expectations and turns them on their heads, delivering adventure, friendship, romance and action, for an all-round great read.

A thousand and one steampunk Arabian Nights

Another fantastic combination is that of old and new - ancient magical creatures like djinni and buraqi (immortal creatures in the shape of horses) clash with factories, pistols, and steam trains. By creating a world where these things exist side by side, Hamilton can explore the way technology can change traditional ways of life and belief, but it also means that this is a truly magical and dangerous adventure. You never quite know who - or what - might be around the corner, and what extraordinary story they may have to share.

It’ll set your pulse racing

Amani, Rebel’s heroine, is desperate to escape her suffocating existence with her uncle’s family and takes a chance when a foreigner makes an explosive entrance, bringing chaos with him. As she and Jin travel further from Dustwalk, she learns more about him and his cause - rebellion against the Sultan whose factories are toxic to legendary creatures that used to populate their lands, and who persecutes anyone with magical powers, forcing them to take shelter in the desert. Their exploits, as they run from the Sultan’s forces, are fast-paced, but their growing relationship will also set your heart beating faster as the two grow ever closer.

You’ll love the varied cast

Rebel of the Sands is full of fascinating and diverse characters who you’ll struggle to find elsewhere in YA Fiction published in the UK. There are main characters who are Middle Eastern, with Muslim traditions and without, main characters from what we would call China, as well as characters who are European. There are women who fight equally alongside men. There are characters who are have a disability. Even with their amazing powers, this feels like the kind of real, varied range of people you might encounter in real life, but have rarely read about.

Amani is the heroine we’ve been waiting for

From the first page, you’ll be drawn into Rebel of the Sands by Amani, our heroine and narrator. She’s a fascinating character, torn between her duty to her family and her frustration with the way she’s being treated and her longing for a better, more fulfilling life. She’s determined to break out of a narrow role and discover her full potential, to enjoy her life, to take risks, even to put her life on the line for her friends and her beliefs. She’s an inspiration companion to go on this journey with, and you’ll be itching to find out where her adventure will take her next as this particular instalment comes to a close.


Kate Neilan is a book blogger at Adventures With Words, and works in marketing at Vintage Books. 


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