She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.
Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from.
Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him…or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.
***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via Penguin FirstToRead
I wanted to love this book so hard. That cover. I mean, come on. The storyline. EPIC. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this story because it was so unlike anything I’ve read. And then, I started and there were times where I fell, I slipped into this magical, dusty reality with djinn and folklore, with a feisty heroine and a playful trickster, when kisses could set the pages on fire. Other times, I struggled not to DNF it. It’s crazy difficult to write this review because there are so many things going for this story, so many wonderful, exciting, powerful things, and then…it kind of flat lines.
- Amani is a determined and pretty badass character. She’s fierce and brave, and doesn’t shy away from danger. She gets up in the chaos and yes, sometimes she nearly dies, but the adrenaline rush, the fear, the drama, it’s all worth it. The initial shooting contest is EDGE OF YOUR SEAT AMAZING. It truly feels like the Old West meets Middle Eastern mystery. She calls people out on their bluffs. She’s definitely interesting and keeps you wanting more of her edgy personality. All she wants is freedom and she’ll do anything to get it.
- While many characters fizzled out, Jin stuck. He’s playful, flirtatious without being too aggressive. He’s heroic and a little silly. He loves to tease and he’s incredibly courageous. A total man of mystery and crazy swoon worthy. He keeps Amani on her toes and is the perfect companion for adventure.
- There are a ton of twists and turns that will keep you guessing. There’s a subtle hint of darkness and mystery, of magic and wonder that add flair to the story. The creatures are mesmerizing. The folklore/stories bewitching. You’ll want to find out more.
- There’s a massive amount of stuff going on. Threads upon threads of storyline and tons of description. While normally this is a pro, it felt excessive and confusing. Too much. The story behind the death of Amani’s parents, the subplots all seems to merge together in a blob that jumps from one thing to another without letting the story develop. Just when I’d get hooked, when stories about the djinn or the First Beings would come up, it would leap to something else, and I wanted to throw my hands up in frustration.
- The world building was overwhelming. There is an issue with overabundance. There are several locations and cultures, ways of life, and stories that all come up to the point where it feels a little like a history textbook. There were whole sections that I skimmed because they went on forever. Tolkien level description. While this is awesome, it made you forget about the main characters.
- The story lacked focus. You think it’s about one thing and then it goes to another. Direction. There’s a bunch of build up about the Rebel Prince and the traitor’s supposed crimes and nothing. A wild goose chase yes, but the Rebel Prince’s actual face time, like a scene. The punch wasn’t there.
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