I’ve been sticking to my goal of reading more this year, and I’ve been enjoying it. It’s nice to slip away into another world, and not have to worry about being the one who’s writing that world. Recently, I got my hands on a copy of Saga Vol. 6, and Rebel of the Sands. I have very different opinions of them.
Saga I have talked about before. It remains fantastic in my eyes, and Vol. 6 delivered on a lot of promises set up in Vol. 5 while still remaining emotionally captivating. Some new characters are introduced, and we get to find out what’s been happening with The Will now that he’s back up on his feet and ripping across the galaxy. Thought he’s… a bit unstable after his adventures in previous volumes, to say the least. We catch up with Marko and Alana again, too, and continue to see how their relationship is evolving as Hazel grows older. The series remains both wildly imaginative and surprisingly restrained all at once, trusting its plot to the actions and reactions of characters rather than crazy, random happenstances. The art continues to be beautiful and the writing promises even more great content in the future. I can’t talk too much more about this series without just devolving into gushing fangirl nonsense, so I’ll end here by urging you to give the series a shot if you like adventures in space with a fantasy twist, and plenty of heart-wrenching emotion to make you want to just scream at and hug the graphic novels at the same time.
Now, this other book that I’ve read, Rebel of the Sands, I am lukewarm on at best. The book came at the high recommendation of a friend, and part of me is hoping she has zero interest in reading my blog as this will probably break her heart. (Sorry, if you are actually reading this!) Rebel of the Sands is not a bad book, and there’s a lot of intriguing elements to it that could make for a really good story. I just don’t think it was executed well enough to deliver on those promises.
The book is a blend of Arabic culture and spaghetti westerns. If that doesn’t sound all that great, I’m inclined to agree. It could have been done well, but in all honesty, it felt like the cowboy elements had come directly from Hollywood’s watered-down, glamorized version with bits and pieces of Arabian culture sprinkled throughout as decoration. For example, the main character Amani describes something as “yellow-bellied” early in the book, which isn’t exactly a term I’d expect to hear from a non-English derived character (the phrase originated in England before trickling down to American Hollywood… it doesn’t belong in this world). Then she’s adjusting her “sheema”, which is what the author has decided to call a bandana, the best I can figure. Unless it’s a scarf of some sort, but I never really figured it out, and there’s not enough description to paint much of a picture when it comes to clothing and setting. As such, the world-building is lacking and easily could have been fleshed out much, much more.
There’s mention of the religion of the region, along with the magic of the world that the story takes place in, but these are given superficial glances at most throughout the narrative. This is a problem, given that an entire war has been waged so that one country’s religion could oust the other, and start to cut off the remaining ties to magic. It was frustrating to not see any characters give any real thought to either of these elements, though magic finally did start to play a big role towards the end of the book. But by this point, I’d grown too frustrated with the book to be able to appreciate it, and one character’s shift in moral stance left me confused more than anything. One minute, he was talking about obliterating people because of his religious beliefs, the next, he was aiding the main character’s group of rebel friends and then disappearing without so much as a Terminator’s promise.
The beginning of the book drew me in immediately, with the sharpshooting contest and the introduction of Jin, the mysterious love interest (which I can definitely get into every once in a while), but things started to fall flat after the contest is over. Jin becomes pretty generic and the attraction between him and Amani feels shoehorned into the narrative. Additionally, things just start happening to Amani, who becomes an almost purely reactive character, save when she’s leaving someone behind. Her arc doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, and as drawn to her as I was in the beginning, I don’t think I’ll be picking up the next installment of her story.
If you like gun-slinging heroines, you may like Rebel of the Sands far more than I did. It’s a quick, easy read, and the writing is actually pretty solid in terms of style. There are some really beautiful moments in the descriptions that are there, and again, there are a lot of elements that are intriguing and lay the foundation for a good story. But I wish there had been more.