I received a free copy of the excerpt of this book through NetGalley. This review is based solely on the two chapters included in the excerpt I received.
This book was an okay read. I won't go out of my way to pick up a copy to finish it, but if I found it in the library or cheap in a used bookstore I might pick it up. The writing was pretty decent, but I think the world building and character development could have used a little more work before publishing.
Amani lives in the made up nation of Miraji, in a small mining village called Dustwalk. Barely one chapter into the book I'm already a little confused. Based off the summary of the book and the names of the characters I believe this book is supposed to be set in the Middle East. Going off the names of the cities and the speech patterns of the characters, it's set somewhere in western America. It would appear the author couldn't make up her mind and kind of meshed the two together -- it remains to be seen how well this will work.
Amani is desperate to get out of Dustwalk, where the only thing she has to look forward to is an arranged marriage. She has one skill that could be the key to escaping, she has perfect aim. I should love this character. Amani risks her life in order to get out of Dustwalk by masquerading as a boy in a shooting contest -- our protagonist gets distracted at the first sight of a cute boy. She knows the more she talks to this boy, the greater the chance she will be discovered and yet she does it anyways. If you're going to setup your character as a determined individual willing to risk her life, you should at least wait until this is firmly established before introducing the male love interest, otherwise she just comes across as easily distracted by the shiny.
The character development and world building needed some work, but it was the shooting contest I had huge issues with. Dahmad the Champion spends the contest getting progressively more wasted, to the point that at the final challenge he is falling down drunk. Despite the fact Dahmad can't even stand up straight, he's able to hit a moving target in the second-to-last challenge. Also, I've never fired a gun before, but you pull the trigger -- you do not slam your finger down on it. Despite all the issues I had with the first two chapters, the author writes a decent story. I gave this excerpt 3 stars.