Only monsters summon fire by magic. It’s a sin against the sun god and a crime against the king. The punishment is death. But when sixteen-year-old Mina discovers fire magic runs in her family’s blood, it’s just the beginning of the secrets her father has been keeping from her. When her father is murdered, this half-starved peasant girl finds herself on the run—pursued across the desert by the soldiers and guards of the noble Houses. To survive, she knows she’ll have to abandon her past and learn the way of the sword. But only boys are allowed to carry a blade. There’s only one solution…Disguised as a young nobleman, Mina must make a new life for herself in the heart of her enemies. But she knows she can’t keep up the masquerade forever. With time running out, which will she choose to find—the truth or revenge?
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The plot of Sand Dancer is action packed and exciting from start to finish. I was immediately pulled into the story and had a hard time putting this book down. The reader is pushed quickly from place to place, point to point, and there is a lot that goes on. There wasn’t much, if any, down time in the book and while I don’t like too many slow moments in a story, I could have used a breather at lease once in this novel. As many events that take place in this book, I felt that story may have worked better if things had been drawn out and separated into multiple books, rather than all pushed into one together.
The setting of the book, the country of Gais, was immersive and the author did a great job showing the terrain and environments of the cities Mina travels too. There is a complex social structure at play in the book, which is integral to the plot, and I can tell that the author put a lot of work into building out the world. There is some hinting at the religion, economy and neighboring countries, but due to the fast pace of the novel, I wasn’t able to delve into these aspects as much as I would have liked.
Mina, as the protagonist, was sometimes difficult to like. She’s extremely arrogant, without much evidence to back up her confidence, and often ignores good advice she received from other characters. I was regularly frustrated by the decisions that she made, but appreciate that she remained consistent and strong throughout. The side characters were interesting, but mostly one-dimensional, as the plot-heavy book didn’t allow as much room to explore their lives and personalities as a slower paced novel might.
Sand Dancier is Trudie Skies’ debut novel. This book is a fast and fun read. The story and setting will quickly pull you in and keep your reading until the last page. Due to the fast paced nature of the book, some elements of the setting and character suffered, but overall it was an enjoyable read. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Skies’ novels in the future.