YA Review: Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

traitor-to-the-throneThe Premise: Having torn up the desert and gained notoriety as the Blue-Eyed Bandit, Amani has a key role in the rebellion against the Sultan. Then she finds herself kidnapped and dropped into a situation from which her sharp-shooting skills can’t get her out.

Thoughts: I’ve been putting off writing this because my feelings about Traitor to the Throne are all over the place. I really, really loved this book’s predecessor, Rebel of the Sands; it was fun, action-packed and feminist as hell, and I am here for all these things. I liked the assembling of the rebellion, I liked the banter between Amani and Jin, the love interest, and I liked the tone. What Hamilton does by taking Amani out of the rebel camp and into the Sultan’s palace is to take away a lot of the elements I enjoyed in Rebel, and that was a problem for me. Having been kidnapped, Amani is held in the palace’s harem, surrounded by dangerous princes and devious wives; there’s nothing wrong with this per se, apart from the fact that it means the fun and excitement are sacrificed for politics and intrigue, and these just aren’t as fun.

I really love The Walking Dead, but I really hate how often the show separates all the characters just to drag out the plot and introduce bucketloads of new characters I don’t care about; I felt a little like this is what Traitor to the Throne did too. While some of these new (and reintroduced) characters are interesting – I was really intrigued by the Sultan, and the return of a character from Dustwalk is welcome too – I was frustrated by the absence of Jin for the main chunk of the novel. I didn’t even realise how much I enjoyed the exchanges between him and Amani until they were rudely taken away from me.

Look, I don’t want to be overly negative. It’s a second book in a trilogy, so obviously there’s going to be a fair bit of pushing along the plot at the expense of gunfire and escapes on horseback. I get it.¬†And things do pick up a lot towards the end, so the feeling I was left with was far more positive than the one I had throughout most of the book. Amani is still a kickass, awesome heroine and I love her attitude. Traitor brings in new elements while developing our understanding of others, like the djinn, which sheds light on Rebel too. And there are moments of genuine feeling, which remain with the reader beyond the novel’s ending.

In Conclusion: while Traitor wasn’t everything I had hoped for, it is definitely an entertaining and engaging read, although not one I would recommend reading without having read Rebel (although why would you ever do that anyway?). The moments of action and banter between familiar characters make it worthwhile – I just really would have liked more of them…