It must take some daring, writing a novel inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, which has seen so many versions and interpretations that it seems impossible to write something fresh and different based on it.
(One of my favourites is Sharaz-De, the visually sumptuous graphic novel version by Italian Sergio Toppi).
But somehow Renee Ahdieh has done it. She’s written a story that is more than just the One Thousand and One Nights of stories, it is a story about a brave and strong young woman, who is fearless and also vulnerable, and a conflicted king with the reputation of a monster, one who marries and murders each new wife before dawn. It is an adventure with sword fighting and archery and a hint of dark magic.
“We women are a sad lot, aren’t we?”
“What do you mean?”
“Strong enough to take on the world with our bare hands, yet we permit ridiculous boys to make fools of us.”
Part of me was a bit hesitant when I went into this book. But then I got sucked into it, and this reader-of-several-books-at-a-time sank and submerged into this one book and only came up for air when I was done. It just propelled me along, wanting to know the reason for the caliph’s evil deeds, whether Shazi would seek revenge for her best friend’s death, and what was going on with her father??
Ahdieh is adept at making the reader reconsider the characters in the story, that the ‘good guys’ might not necessarily be the heroes, that there may be something else behind the ‘bad guys’.
As she said in an interview with Hypable:
“There are no heroes or villains,” she told us, “There are only people who want different things.”
Silly me, I hadn’t quite realized this was the first book in a series when I started reading it, but too late, I was already enthralled and will just have to wait until the next one emerges soon – later this month!
I read this book for the Once Upon a Time X challenge,
hosted by Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings.