3 out of 5 stars.
I received an ARC of this book.
This may contain spoilers for Rebel of the Sands.
There has been a recent uptick in the number of YA fantasies set in an historical middle eastern setting. This is wonderful because now we can add Djinns into the mix of magical creatures we get to read about, and not everything is automatically medieval Europe. I love the diversity these books add to the mix of YA fantasy.
In the first book, Amani, a sharpshooting and adventurous young lady, is desperate to get out of her dusty and boring hometown before she gets married off. When a stranger stumbles into town, closely pursued by the army, she grabs the chance and escapes. At the end of the book it is revealed that he is a prince who is helping his brother plan a rebellion against their father, and that Amani herself is part Djinn.
In this second instalment, Amani is captured by the crown and taken to the palace as a prisoner. Instead of a desert, she must now navigate the corrupt world of the harem. Jealousies run high amongst those closest to the sultan and Amani having Djinn powers does not fully grant her immunity.
I liked this book more than the first one. In Rebel of the Sands Amani does not really have any long term plans besides ditching her hometown. In this book she has purpose and direction, which gives her character more life. It also gives the book a little more direction. The first one felt like the plot was just random stuff happening to this poor girl and she had little to no say in where she was going and what she was doing. At least in this volume she has a clear goal.
Despite being vaguely desert-themed, this world was not the best in terms of fleshed-out detail. Most fantasy worlds do not hit so close to reality and I was hoping for a bit more deviation, either in terms of food or religion or clothing or something, but the world rang a bit flat. I like the non-European setting, but it definitely could use more creativity.