Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton (Rebel of the Sands book 1)

“They say she’ll always be more gunpowder than girl. The desert has other plans.”

In the desert nation of Miraji, Amani Al’Hiza is a poor, orphaned girl but a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim. She overhears her aunt and uncle talking about finding a husband for her. It has been almost a year since Amani’s mother's execution. Her aunt comments that he needs to find husbands for his own daughters’ first. He snaps back that he can always take her as one of his own wives. Amani knows that she needs to find a way out of Dustwalk. She heads towards her one chance at freedom.

Posing as a boy, Amani uses fifty stolen fouzas to pay the entrance fee to join a shooting contest. She never removes her shema, but her light eyes do stand out in a place where everyone else has dark ones. Amani thinks that hre cover is blown when she sees that Fazim is also in the contest. Fazim is always hanging around her cousin Shira, trying to get his hands under her clothing. Out of twenty-seven entrants, Amani, aka the Blue Eyed Bandit, is in the final three with a boy they call the Foreigner and Dahmad, the house champion. Turns out Dahmad lost before to the Foreigner. Before the final round, the Foreigner plots with Amani. Neither give up their true name and in fact, give each other the same false one. They watch Dahmad continue to drown his sorrows in liquor. A shout comes from outside about the Rebel Prince and the bouncer goes outside. Soon, he drags in a young boy. The final shoot will now be a bottle off the head of the boy, but the Foreigner volunteers himself instead. Amani misses and vice versa when the two switch places. Thinking that they have earned some of the winnings, the man in charge backs out of their deal and says that it wouldn’t be fair if Dahmad didn’t shoot. The crowd begins to chat. Knowing that they were misled by the pit boss, Dahmad raises his gun to the Foreigner. Amani knows that Dahmad might actually shoot him for revenge. She bumps into Dalmad as he fires. The shot misses the Foreigner. The crowd becomes enraged and begins to riot. The two are barely able to escape the fiery venue with their lives. Trying to keep her identity a secret and knowing her aunt and uncle wouldn't look too kindly upon a foreigner, she tells him that she needs to go to a bar about her horse and runs.

The next morning, Amani goes to work at her uncle’s shop. Along the way, she sees her friend, Tamid, outside of the prayer house with a crowd. A cripple, Tamid, uses a crutch. Amani asks what everyone is staring at. At first, she only sees the blackened weapons factory but then notices the Sultan’s army marching towards town. Tamid says that the are here because the pistol pit in Deadshot burned down the night before and a riot occurred along with talk of the Rebel Prince. Tamid realizes that Amani was at the pistol pit and chastises her for it. The two part and Amani opens her uncle’s shop.

During the quiet of the day, Amani begins to formulate a new plan to get out of Dustwalk, least she stay there and either be dead or wed. Late that afternoon, she hears the hoofbeats of the soldiers’ horses pass in front of the store. Suddenly, she sees a shadow dive into the shop, out of sight of the soldiers. Amani reaches for Aunt Farrah’s rifle but the man doesn’t come for her. He is hiding from the soldiers. After they pass, she comments to the hiding man. He turns around and Amani realizes that he is the Foreigner from the pistol pit. He doesn’t seem to recognize her and Amani is a bit disappointed. Knowing that the soldiers are coming back, Amani offers him a place to hide behind her counter. Three soldiers enter and begin looking around the store. One is a young looking commander who states that they are looking for a foreign man. Amani doesn’t give the Foreigner away but does have a problem keeping her smart mouth to herself. The commander tells Amani that the man is wanted for treason and she promises that she will tell someone if she happens to see him. The soldiers leave.  

Amani gets a better look at the Foreigner and notices that he has been shot. He asks why she is helping him when Commander Naguib Al’Oman said that he was dangerous. She removes the bullet and sutures his wound. Amani asks him how he committed treason against the sultan when he clearly isn't from Miraji. He was actually born in Izman, the town Amani is desperate to reach where her aunt supposedly lives. His mother is from Xicha, where he has lived most of his life. Amani asks what it is like and he explains. She questions what he is actually doing there and he counters with why she lied for him. Amani asks if the commander is actually the sultan’s son and she says that everyone knows the story of how the Rebel Prince took Naguib’s place at the Sultim trials. Finishing up the stitches, he turns around and Amani notices his physique. He is quite handsome. He asks for her name and she counters that she doesn’t know his. He replies Jin. Jin says that he isn’t lying and that he would be dead without her help. Amani tells him hers and offers to get him a new shirt. He states that he needs to be leaving before the army comes back. Amani asks to go with him but he refuses. She has no idea where he is going. She is begging him when the bells start ringing. He remarks that it is a bit early for prayer bells but Amani knows that they aren’t a call to prayer.  A hunt is occurring and she runs for the door, leaving Jin behind.

Outside, Amani runs into Tamid. He tells her that a Buraqi, a magical desert horse, has been spotted. Tamid tells Amani to leave but she grabs some iron and runs after it. A Buraqi will take mortal form if enough iron and a female are present. Whichever female causes the Buraqi to gain mortal form, will “own it” or her husband or guardian will and can sell it for a lot of money. Trapped in a circle, women are scrambling to claim the horse. Amani knocks her cousin Shira down and is able to claim the horse. Uncle Asid takes the Buraqi as Amani is shoved away. A hand grabs her from behind and drags her away. It is Fazim.

He asks Amani to marry him. Fazim knows that she is the Blue-eyed Bandit from the pistol pit. He was planning on marrying Shira. She was his best bet to get rich and leave town until Amani caught the Buraqi. She would rather be shot first. Fazim says that is what will happen once the army finds out that she has been with the wanted foreigner. Shira catches them as Fazim threatens Amani with degrading her first if she refuses to marry him. He pulls away and she is able to run. Amani makes a mad dash home to get some things she needs in order to leave. Amani is able to grab a shirt for Jin before Aunt Farrah can catch her She is disappointed to find that Jin isn’t waiting for her at the shop. Leaving, Tamid finds her. He quickly realizes that she is planning to flee with the Buraqi and is hurt that she didn’t tell him. Tamid tells he that he was planning on asking her uncle for her hand in marriage in order to keep her safe. Their marriage would keep her away from Fazim, the army and her family .Before she can respond, Fazim appears in the crowd. Tamid tells her to run and she does. Aunt Farrah finds her next and wants to know where she is going. Amani says that she is going far away and if she does, Farrah will never have to worry with her ever again. Farrah lets her go just as Commander Naguib grabs her. Fazim has turned her in. Naguib looks at her eyes and Amani knows that her looks have betrayed her. The commander threatens to shoot her but Fazim says that her cripple should be used against her. That will get her to talk. Naguib interrogates Amani but he doesn’t like her answers. He shoots Tamid in his bad leg anyway. Continuing with his questioning, Amani feels a gun pressed against her cheek as the world around her explodes with light and noise.

Waking up, Amani sees that Tamid is lying face down. His mother is leaning over him. She sees that the weapons factory is on fire. Everyone is screaming and praying as Commander Naguib orders his men around, forgetting about Amani. She hears the scream of the Buraqi and sees Jin riding on its back. They are racing down the street. With seconds to decide, Amani grabs Jin’s hand when he offers it, knowing it is her last chance at escape.

Why does Amani have blue eyes when everyone else’s are brown? Is Tamid dead or alive? What becomes of her Uncle Asid and Aunt Farrah after she leaves? Who is Jin? Why is he wanted for treason? Where does he end up taking Amani? Will she stick with him or betray him to get to where she wants to go?

Readers will be eagerly waiting on book two.

Visit Alwyn Hamilton’s website.

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