Amani was raised in backwater Dustwalk, where you learned to shoot before you learned to walk, and she’s dreamt of leaving since her mother died. Amani plans to run away to Izman, the capital of the dessert nation Miraji. There, she can be her own person, not owned by her uncle or some husband she doesn’t want to be with. But first, she has to be able to pay her way there.
Which explains how Amani ended up in Deadshot, the crappy town next to Dustwalk. Specifically how she ended up meeting a handsome foreigner as they try to escape a riot at the pistol pit. It doesn’t explain why he runs into her shop with a bullet wound the day after being chased by the Sultan’s Army. Or why she rides off into the dessert with him on the back of an immortal horse.
I loved this book. It was exciting in so many different ways. I loved the characters and the mythology and the stories. My favorite part was Shihabian in the oasis. It hit me that Amani was celebrating the same holy day under the same sky, but now she was celebrating surrounded by people who had come to care for her, and with more food and drink than she’d probably ever been able to eat in her life. It was a brilliant testament to how much Amani’s life had changed. If I had one complaint, it was the pacing. Some scenes (especially action scenes) felt like they just dragged on and on forever.
This book was heavy on the romance. It was refreshing not to have to deal with the characters playing coy with each other. Amani and Jin started flirting the moment they met in the pistol pit. She made him laugh and he saved her from the rioters in the pit. He pulled her from her dead-end hometown and she saved him from the Sultan’s Army. There was never a moment where I didn’t think they would fall in love with each other.
I was not surprised that Amani was a Demdji. Jin had been hiding something the whole time, though I was admittedly convinced it was something deeply painful meant to turn him into a brooding stranger trope. But Amani was obviously special. Her strangely bright eyes were mentioned far too many times for it to be a coincidence, and her sharp-shooting ability was impressive, to say the least. She couldn’t be a First Being or a Djinn, because she’d have noticed. Too much magic in her and too much iron in her world for a First Being to go unnoticed. Being half-djinni makes sense once somebody mentioned that it was even possible. Iron weakened her enough that her abilities never surfaced, but it never hurt her, which was important considering how many times she held a gun growing up. But if I don’t see some repercussions to the fact that her gun, which has really been the most trustworthy thing in her life, is what was preventing her from developing her abilities as a Demdji and she won’t be able to shoot anymore, I’m going to be extremely disappointed.
Shazad is a secondary character worth discussing. She is no Mary Sue character. She doesn’t just think she’s great. She is phenomenal, even more so because she is not Demdji, and she uses her remarkable ability and strength to fight for a cause she believes in. She’s one of Ahmed’s best assets and I doubt the Rebellion would be anywhere close to where it was without her. I find her to be amazingly inspiring.
I’m surprised that I liked this book as much as I did, because I’m really not enjoying this Western trend at all. I am not big on the whole horse, saloon, gunslinger scene. I am, however, loving this shift toward the Middle East. The dessert sets a harsh and beautiful backdrop for any travels characters make. I aslo really love the look at Middle-Eastern mythos and culture. The Middle-Eastern fantasy mixed with civil disobedience and rebellion just vibes well with me right now.