Oh how I wanted to adore this novel. All of the female characters were kick ass. There was an actual fantasy element in this novel, unlike its predecessor. Even the antagonist was featured as a major character. Despite all of the positives, the novel still fell flat for me which was incredibly disappointing. First off, I was so pissed there had to be a catty female element in the novel. Rebel of the Sands basically avoided it, which was refreshing for YA. However, it unfortunately did not happen in this one. Majority of the novel Amani had to deal with jealous women and them trying to ruin her in the most vicious of stereotypical girl fight ways. Is it impossible to have a YA series that does not include catty girl fights? I get so tired of the mean girls and girls just being cruel to one another. I find it absolutely ridiculous that all novels have to include it. There are plenty of females who can coexist without trying to tear one another down. Does it happen in real life, particularly during the teenage years? Yes. But why do author's not try to rise above it and not include it in their novel's? Hamilton did excellent with crafting female friendships and it cheapened the novel by including the harem dynamic and issues with other women. Throw in Prince Kadir lusting over her, and it just increased Amani's stereotypical special snowflake status. Another issue, which is a carry over from the last novel, is the lack of chemistry between Amani and Jin. Their relationship never felt genuine, so with the lack of page time the two had together, it basically killed any romantic notion between the two. Not to mentioned Jin abandoned Amani while she was dying because HE WAS AFRAID! That is absolutely inexcusable to me. When a loved one is dying, you are supposed to stay by their side giving them love and support until the end. That is what love is: being there no matter what. His actions made it so I will never support this relationship. I began hoping for a love triangle so Amani would find someone who treated her better (looking at you Rahim). If you know me, I hate love triangles. So something is seriously wrong if I'm rooting for another love interest to join the foray. The final issue I had with the novel was the ending. There was a massive plot twist, which I did not fully enjoy. I do give Hamilton kudos for being completely unexpected. Too bad I hated the twist and it tainted the entire novel for me. I wish it had gone a different route.
One thing I find the novel did very well was the Sultan. He had a vast amount of page time, and the reader was finally able to see interactions with him instead of hearing about it second hand from Ahmed and Jin. The Sultan is what I always crave in a villain, functioning in a shade of gray. He has done unspeakable acts, such as killing his family, but he loves his country and is capable of also being gentle. I am genuinely excited to see how Amani's confusion and the Sultan pan out. That may be the single most element I am looking forward to and the primary reason I will read the sequel.
*Major Spoilers Below*
I truly wish Ahmed would have died, instead of Imin. I feel as if the twist turned into a cop out. If you are going to kill off a huge character, do it. I hate that one such as Imin had to die. Not to mention no one noticed the fact Ahmed suddenly had gold eyes. I feel like that is a major hole to what happened. My guess is originally she did kill off Ahmed then backed out of it. The recovery after his death would have been interesting to see evolve. It would have opened up a world of opportunities. I am disappointed about it, and how hasty that scene happened tainted the novel for me. It was not as well written as the rest of the novel.