I have never wanted to finish a book so quickly than this one. And I don’t mean it nicely. I was expecting this. I should’ve turned the other way when I saw it in Waterstones. I should’ve trusted my gut feeling and not listened to the random girl talking to her friend who said this was ‘the best book she’s ever read,’
Originally, I was intrigued by the Western/ Middle Eastern concept but only after a couple of pages I realised how terribly clichéd it was and decided that this fusion was a terrible idea and she didn’t pull it off, if you ask me.
I’m guessing the western concepts were the dustbowl towns and gun toting civilians and when it came to the Middle Eastern aspects it was folk tales and mythology. As much as I loved Aladdin and Thousand and One Nights, it shouldn’t be the only model for stories about the Middle East and its people and culture. Desert, magic, threats of forced marriage and oppressive family. Rebel of the Sands is just one of many that are part of the YA fantasy boom that utilises Islamic folklore as the main concept of their novels but fails so badly. Her fusion felt so forced and artificial, more western than Middle Eastern. You could easily tweak a couple of things and just like that, the backdrop could easily become a dystopian USA. (And it breaks my heart knowing that publishers PREFER this, knowing that somewhere a Middle Eastern writer has probably written a fantasy book with their own folklore twist but their voice was passed over and they have to watch Hamilton and so many others make their debut from barely even touching their culture.)
The world-building was nothing special, and that’s a damn shame considering the concept and so much could’ve been done with it. The way this world runs was so confusing. These people drink yet pray so I’m assuming the predominant faith is Islam. If it isn’t, Hamilton hasn’t done much to clear the air since it’s entirely ambiguous. (Is there even a time period? Where are we?)
I keep reading all these 5 star reviews where they gush over Amani and Jin, but honestly, I don’t see it. And why I can understand with other YA couples but, with these two, I see absolutely nothing and I’m pretty sure you’re all lying to me about their relationship being amazing. Amani and Jinn have zero chemistry. Amani rarely acknowledges her feelings for Jin. And his introduction was so funny, I couldn’t stop laughing. We were only eight (eight!) pages in and she spent like a paragraph on how beautiful Jin was despite her being really anxious about to do a shoot off to win money, she still has the time to mention how extremely beautiful this random boy is. (Also, don’t you just love it when soldiers are chasing you and the only way you can hide is by kissing a boy you barely know #justgirlythings.) There’s also a huge time jump of around two months where these two supposedly become greater friends and I was so annoyed. The beginning could’ve easily been cut to allow us to see their friendship develop. I wouldn’t even mind if they just ended up as friends, but nah, you need the insta-love. (I will give ANYTHING for this ugly trope to die, please…..)
I have to admit Rebel of the Sands does pick up around the 200 page mark where what you’re promised to find is actually introduced to the story. It takes a very long time, though, and by the time I got there I was bored. I have no faith nor interest that the sequel will even be an improvement.
Paperback, 358 pagesPublished February 4th 2016 by Faber & FaberISBN: 0571325254