The first 200 pages were not written well. I was bored and felt growing discomfort with the mangled Middle Eastern culture this fantasy book was premised on. At least the next 150 odd pages picked up a little in terms of plot and also storytelling, so I didn’t end up thoroughly hating Rebel of the Sands. Still, this book has so many problems, I’m relieved I didn’t order the sequels before finishing this one first.
Young adult books set in college, or even about the summer before college, aren’t all too common. That’s why I was surprised when I first learnt that American Panda is set at MIT. Well, Mei is 17 years old as she enters a year early but it works out well for this book. Mei had a sheltered upbringing, which is very evident as she tries to find her place at university.
As a standalone sequel, A Closed and Common Orbit did well to outline the setting. I think new readers would be able to understand things just fine. At the same time, it further expanded the world building for those who’ve read The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. The characters remained central to the plot of A Closed and Common Orbit as well, thereby justifying the slow pacing.