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Literature / Rebel of the Sands

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Rebel of the Sands is the first book in a trilogy by Alwyn Hamilton. Set in the desert land of Miraji, where humans live in awe and fear of magical creatures that lurk in the barrens around them, a determined young orphan named Amani finds herself caught up in a revolution.

The sequels are Traitor to the Throne, published March 2017, and Hero at the Fall, published March 2018.

Unrelated to a 2013 Real-Time Strategy game Battle Of The Sands.

Rebel of the Sands contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Amani, who is a dead shot with a gun. Later she gets magic sand powers.. There is also Shazad who's not only a good strategist but a legitimate Action Girl.
  • Always Male: Djinni in this universe are always male.
  • Anti-Magical Faction: Gallans exterminated all of their magical creatures and intend to do the same to Miraji, calling them abominations against God, and have directly outlawed any use of magic.
  • Anyone Can Die: As part of the War Is Hell theme, later books really up the body count.
  • Artistic License – Linguistics: The princes are referred to as (given name) Al-Oman bin Izman, meaning son of Oman from Izman. The problem is the articles are wrong, so they should be referred to as bin Oman Al-Izman. Granted, Al can also be the family name and if the Sultan was particularly egotistical he could demand to rename the family after him, but "son of (place name)" is incorrect either way.
  • Cain and Abel:
    • Only in this case, who's Cain and who's Abel isn't clear-cut. Amani and Noorsham are half-siblings through their father and on different sides. Amani really doesn't want to kill him but feels she must in order to save her friends while Noorsham is unaware of their connection and thus doesn't hesitate. He escapes after their fight but learns that she's his sister, and Amani is left wondering what he'll do going forward.
    • The sultan's sons repeatedly try to kill each other for power, whether it's Ahmed nearly being stabbed in the back by his oldest brother in the backstory or Ahmed and Jin being hunted by Nagruib in the current time. Ahmed and Jin are the Abel in this case, as they are actually close and refuse to kill their brothers, while their brothers are eager for a power grab.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: Demdji can't tell a lie. They can, however, make the lie turn into a truth.
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  • Chekhov's Gun: Amani lives in Dustwalk, a cities famous for its weapon factory.
  • Cool Horse: The Buraqi, supernaturally fast horses that can transform into sandstorms and fire.
  • Distinguishing Mark: Every Demdji has one, from blue skin until purple hair.
  • Elemental Powers:
  • Fantasy Gun Control: A major plot point. Guns are a known invention, but magical beings will revolt and destroy gun factories, mines, and the like to stop them from being mass produced, with Miraji being the only country in the world that can manufacture them. It's made them a major target of every other country.
  • The Fundamentalist: Since his power manifested against the men that raped and killed his sisters, Noorsham believes he was called by God to punish the wicked. Nothing Amani says gets through to him, even though the Sultan's army has enslaved him and used him, and he shows no hesitation in wiping out entire towns filled with his own people to cleanse the country of Gallan influence.
  • Gender Bender: Imin switches gender quite often and not always as a disguise. Their lover Namid doesn't care what shape they're in.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Offspring of a Djinni and a human, called Demdji, will have some inherited power from their fathers. There's also a secondary character, Sam, who's a quarter fairy and thus can walk through stone.
  • High Fantasy: The book all takes place in the fantastical country of Miraji, which has been described as a cross between the the wild west and Arabian Nights. There are magical beasts, tyrannical rulers, and old stories of a world destroying Eldritch Abomination...
  • I Die Free: In Hero at the Fall, we learn Hala's mother sold her into slavery, and after she escaped, she vowed never to be a captive again and made Amani promise to kill her if she was taken. Since Demdji promises are unbreakable, Amani is forced to shoot her when she's captured by the Sultan, and Hala's last words are to reassure her that this was her wish.
  • I Know Your True Name: You can control Demdji and call Djinni by knowing their true names.
  • Inspirational Martyr: Of all people, Shira becomes this, denouncing the sultan at her execution and rallying the people against him. By the end of the book, Ahmed has joined her, even though he's not dead.
  • Literal Genie: What Demdji said would happen will happen, but maybe not in the way they/ you intend it to be.
  • Magitek: The Sultan has found a way to use Djinn as a power source and drains one to create virtually unstoppable magical soldiers.
  • Master of Illusion: Delilah's power.
  • More Expendable Than You: At the very end of the second book, it's revealed that Imin replaced Ahmed and is executed in his stead.
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: In the second book, the Sultan talks a big game about how his manuevering, politicking and oppression are ultimately for the good of Miraji and how the rebellion will only make things worse, so well that even Amani starts to believe him. And then he gets the power of the Djinn for his own and abandons any pretense of well-meaning, destroying the negotiations and creating an army with the intent to crush any threat to his own power.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Jin for Ajinahd Al-Oman bin Izman.
  • Our Djinn Are Different: The Djinn are all male, can only tell the truth, and are nigh immortal. Iron is the only thing that can kill them.
  • Our Ghouls Are Creepier: Ghouls kill and eat people, taking the forms of their last victims to trick their next ones. They, too, can only be killed by iron, and unlike the feral Nightmares, Ghouls are intelligent and patient.
  • Out-Gambitted: Near the end of Traitor to the Throne it's revealed that the Sultan knew Amani was a rebel and used her to feed wrong information, ingratiate his spies, and near totally crush the rebellion. The only thing that saves them is Amani bringing in a sandstorm, allowing a few of them to escape and regroup.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Most Demdji have illusionary or shapeshifting powers, but Amani and Noorsham, children of Bahadur, have Elemental Powers strong enough to level entire cities.
  • Power Nullifier: Iron to kill and restrain First Beings, and bronze to make them obedient. The touch of a woman can also force them into their mortal shape. As a gunner, and a citizen of Dustwalk, surrounded by all the metal to nullify her power all her life, Amani doesn't get to realize her powers until after her gun's missing from her hand.
  • Really Royalty Reveal: Not that dramatic, but apparently Jin is the brother of the famous Rebel Prince, and consequently a prince himself.
  • Red Baron: Amani, the Blue-Eyed Bandit.
  • Rebel Prince: The person behind the rebel movement, originally Prince Ahmed Al-Oman bin Izman.
  • Sadistic Choice: In book 3, to punish her for nearly killing them all, the Djinn make Amani choose between two people to die: her lover Jin, or the rebel prince Ahmed. She chooses Jin at his own request and dies with him, but both are resurrected by Bahadur.
  • Shapeshifting: Imin's power. Maz and Izz too, but they can only shapeshift into animals.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: When she's captured by the Sultan in the second book, Amani starts to fall into this.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Amani when she walks out shooting her gun. A lot of girls do this in this universe to keep themselves safe.
  • War Is Hell: Throughout the series, but particularly strong in Hero at the Fall with its focus on the grim effects of war, the hard choices leaders have to make, the endless death, failure, pain, and hopelessness, and the mess to clean up after.
  • You Are in Command Now: At the end of Traitor to the Throne, with Ahmed and Shazad captured, Amani realizes that she is the one most qualified to lead the rebellion.