Summary: Disguised as a boy, Amani escapes her oppressive desert town on the back of a mythical horse and accompanied by a foreign stranger called Jin. Her plans of reaching the capital of the Empire to strike out on her own are thwarted when she gets pulled into Jin’s world of espionage and rebellion.
Thoughts: I have so many mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I loved the mythology and the mythical creatures introduced in this book. I loved the slightly steampunk take on a Middle Eastern fantasy, which is very rare to see. But, it read so much like a western forced into a Middle Eastern setting. And that’s not the part that knocks off a few stars. What I didn’t like was the most likely unconscious stereotyping of oppressed females and sexist patriarchal figures. Amani was supposed to counteract that as this strong-willed, stubborn and very kickass main character. And that she was, but Amani had very little flaws to sympathize with. She wasn’t as complex as I was hoping she would be. While I read, there were parts that were so fast paced I wouldn’t be able to put the book down for eighty pages or so, and then the pacing slowed down and I didn’t pick the book up for a day. I think the first eighty pages of the book and the last eighty pages were my favorite. And now moving back to the good stuff… One of the things I did enjoy was Amani’s constant banter with Jin. I loved their chemistry, even if it wasn’t very showy. Alwyn Hamilton’s writing was beautiful, and there were times where I read and re-read her sentences just to let the pretty wording and sentence structure sink in. I think with more research, better characterization and a faster paced plot, this book would have been almost flawless.