Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Truly Exciting New Novel (Young Adult Division)

Welcome back.

Alwyn Hamilton
Except for the posts about Impressionism on January 1 and the Mahler 8 on February 26, I've been neglecting my personal blog. All for good reason: although not teaching this past semester, I chose to spend my time finishing up my next book. More information about that project when Knowledge Services: A Strategic Framework for the 21st Century Organization is published in mid-September.

Speaking of books, though, I want to alert all my friends to one of the most exciting books I've read in a long time. As it turns out, the book is one of a genre referred to as "young adult fiction" but I don't mention that designation to turn my adult friends and colleagues away. In fact, young adult fiction (thought of as fiction written for 15-to-18-year-olds, but depending on the definition you read, the term also refers to readers between the ages of 15 to early twenties) can be greatly pleasurable for anyone who likes to read. The timeframe for the target market doesn't matter. Some adults still enjoy reading young adult fiction (I'm one of them—one of my favorite books continues to be Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, still a terrific read twenty years after the first volume was published).

And now I have a new favorite: Alwyn Hamilton's Rebel of the Sands. Just out in March, Hamilton's exciting book is set in a fictional time and place. The former is somewhere in the future (I think—but perhaps not) and the place is an exotic and mixed-landscape piece of the earth somewhere in Africa (or perhaps somewhere else—in any case it's a place where there's lots of sand). That little description gives you an idea of the enormous amount of energy, research, and creative thinking that has gone into the book, and even such notables as Jeff Giles, writing in The New York Times Book Review (April 10, 2016) recognize the quality of what Hamilton has done:

"'Rebel of the Sands' (Giles writes) is a winning bit of storytelling, as well as a homage to storytelling itself. It evokes such disparate influences—'1,001 Arabian Nights,' Hindu lore, and Navajo myth, as well as, inevitably, the triumvirate of Tolkien, Lucas, and Rowling—that at times you wonder whether Hamilton can pull it all off. She can. She has circled a spot on the map and claimed it for her own." And I want to be among Giles and the many others showering Hamilton with congratulations (and with full disclosure: I have known Hamilton and her brother since they were youngsters—their parents are good friends of mine).

My title for this blog post is intentional. Indeed, "exciting" might be a trifle too tame for what Hamilton has created. It's truly a classic page-turner and I hate to think of how many chores didn't get done at my house because Mr. Guy just wanted to keep reading. This book is just too much fun not to (keep reading, that is, not doing chores). It's the first volume in a trilogy, just like Pullman's Northern Lights (published as The Golden Compass in America), and I'm already looking forward to Hamilton's next volume.

The overall plot is good, and the story basically comes down to how smart and quick the heroine is. She's Amani Al'Hiza, and whether she is camouflaged as a boy (which seems to be most of the time) or being her real self, her skill with a gun is amazing to read about. In this land of immortal horses and mystical colleagues and magical djinn, Amani Al'Hiza finds herself in situations that I found simply thrilling to read about. Of course there's romance. Why wouldn't there be? And when our sharpshooter heroine and the guy she finds herself taking up with start to get together, the news is (most of the time) good. There are a few little guy/girl skirmishes but they get resolved in pretty short order, especially when the two of them (our leading man is Jin who is—not to put too fine a point on it—also a true hero) find themselves caught up between two groups of warring princes.

Get the drift? This one is really fun, and if you have young adult children and grandchildren (or if you're like me and like to read this kind of literature just for the fun of it), this is a book I recommend. Will it replace Pullman for me? Ask me in a year. Right about now, I'm leaning toward Hamilton's new book.

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