Traitor to the Throne (Rebel of the Sands Book 2) by Alwyn Hamilton
Published by: Faber & Faber (Allen & Unwin Australia)
Released on: February 2 2017
Read: December 23 2016
Trying to defeat your despotic father’s large and powerful army with your small but dedicated band of rebels is a big task. No sooner have you managed to triumph in one part of the country, then a protest in another part is soundly beaten, and you must re-group. This is what faces the Rebel Prince and his band of merry misfits, part-djinn children, and hopeless romantics. They carry a fire, that’s certain, but success is determined by choices, and their youth, inexperience and lack of resources means their task is overwhelming.
Which is why Traitor to the Throne works on many levels.
Amina has developed a lot over the course of the first book. Now aware of her Demdji powers, her confidence is growing. Assured of Jin’s love initially, she is now rethinking their relationship when he keeps his distance, both physically and emotionally. She has meet people who are now her family and her loyalty to them is unrivaled. But there are small disputes among the Rebel Prince’s cohorts. We see Amina and her friends defy his orders, mostly as a counterpoint to the Sultan himself.
For much of the book, Amina, captured and without magic, observes the way Ahmed’s father rules, and there are moments when she almost admires his actions, and herein lies the opportunity for Hamilton to open a conversation on leading and ruling, and the moral ambiguities faced by all people. It’s a little uncomfortable really. We want our villains to be evil, and to have our main character show sympathy for this treacherous man is confronting. During this part of the story, Hamilton dials back on the action, slows the pace, and takes the opportunity to fill the pages with myths and stories of the history of her world. Some readers will love these tangents, while others will rush through them, looking for the excitement and thrill of the inevitable clashes between the opposing forces. While I appreciated Amina’s downtime, I was always preparing myself for the bad times to come (They did. They were.)
There are many new characters introduced, and we lose some dear friends. We also meet up with some who had seemingly been lost to us in the first book. Structurally, Traitor to the Throne is tighter, cleverer, as it builds to its shattering climax. All the pieces seem to be in play now for the final and desperate conclusion to the series. While the first book played on a mash-up of the ‘Old West’ elements inserted into a magical Arabian setting, Traitor to the Throne focuses the tone on a political intrigue genre, with the two sparring armies trying to one-up the other in spying and counter-spying. The stakes are high, and Hamilton deftly highlights how much and how many innocents suffer in war-time.
This advanced copy was approved by Netgalley, via the publisher, and read with thanks. Released everywhere on February 2, 2017.
Recommended for readers who love their fantasy series twisty and complicated. For every one thing where the rebels succeed, there are four more where they don’t, ensuring the rebellion is hard fought. While there are some romantic moments, it’s isn’t a priority, given the characters are more focused on surviving battles and betrayals. The rebel group is diverse, have snarky conversations, and depict true loyalty to Ahmed and each other. The second book in what I believe is a trilogy.