The desert can be a harsh and lawless environment – survival of the fittest. In a country ruled by a Sultan who has allowed foreign armies into its borders, the desert dwellers must be ever alert of the dangers from mortals and djinni. A rebel movement has begun to overthrow the sultan and oust the foreign armies. An ancient magic used to rule the desert but now it seems all are eager to escape the endless sea of sand. After Amani’s mother was hanged for the murder of her husband, Amani lived with her aunt, the oldest wife of a man with many wives. Desperate to escape a fate as his next wife, Amani is intent to find enough money to escape this bleak future and empty town of Dustwalk. She is a sharpshooter and enters a shooting contest hoping to win the prize purse. She meets a foreigner, Jin, with the same steady shooting skill. The two heroes end up fleeing town with soldiers in hot pursuit.
Amani is a take charge, no nonsense reluctant heroine. She is focused on saving herself, but her inherent kindness ultimately shines through. Easily likeable – to the reader, not so much to those she meets – she is a character to root for because she is not one to sit around and whine. Amani tackles problems as they come and gets on with the business at hand, usually getting herself and Jin out of another scrape. Amani is part of the desert – literally. Jin, however, has traveled to other countries and has an exciting air of mystery about him. Jin has a purpose that Amani can’t seem to uncover. But then Amani has a lot to figure out. The harsh desert, rich in djinni folklore and other magical desert creatures, creates the backdrop for this action-packed adventure. Well-drawn characters, including the nasty bad guys and the ultimate good guy rebel prince, round out this most excellent first novel. The author resolves the story arc, mostly, leaving plenty to be explored in the next book. Very well written and highly recommended.
eGalley review Publication date 3.8.16