I think Rebel of the Sands is starting to get rather hyped, for its unusual combination of Eastern-type magic (Djinn) and setting (desert) and Western-type attitudes (gunslinging). It opens very strongly, immediately establishing Amani’s voice, and immediately introducing us to the kind of world she’s in, as well as one of the other main characters (and it is obvious their meeting is no coincidence and has a greater plot meaning). My immediate guesses on the plot weren’t bad, but I was a little out on several points, which speaks well of the way things were structured and set up — easy to follow, with the capacity to surprise, while every step and hint is clear in retrospect.
The world-building is pretty fascinating: the meeting of technology and magic, and the melding of attitudes toward both. The Eastern/Western mixture works surprisingly well and feels natural, rather than as if someone pasted the two together for a gimmick.
I wasn’t absolutely bowled over, though; the pacing to me seemed a little off, and the connection between Jin and Amani seemed to grow at least as much in off-page exchanges as on-page scenes. The pace certainly never stalls, but sometimes I could have done with a scene or two extra, so that the flow of the story and the flow of time aligned more. There were sections where I think days and weeks passed, but only a paragraph or two? I liked that the relationship between Jin and Amani grew slowly time wise, but it didn’t always feel as if we saw that growth happening.
Rebel of the Sands is definitely inventive and fast paced, and I’m looking forward to the next book. For a debut, it’s pretty amazing. I’m wavering about the rating, but I feel I’m just not enthusiastic enough to give it a four. But for sheer enthusiasm, Charnell @ Reviews from a Bookworm and Cait @ Paper Fury have you covered…