For a debut novel, Renée Ahdieh writes a tale that captivates, intrigues, and fascinates in equal measure. With threads of romance, fantasy, mystery, and adventure, she weaves a story with deftly drawn characters and colorful imagery.
The female star, Shahrzad al-Khaysuran has been brave, loyal, stubborn, and unyielding for her sixteen years of life. A measure of arrogance allows her to attempt the impossible, to break a cycle of human sacrifice. She will avenge the murder of her best friend Shiva by volunteering to marry Khalid Ibn al-Rashid, the King of Rey, Khorasan. As his bride, Shazi will find and exploit the king’s weakness and destroy him with it—if she lives long enough.
At eighteen, Khalid is a boy-king, an agile and enigmatic man rumored to be a madman with a temper and a penchant for death. But people often see what they want to see, rather than seeing the truth. With glimpses of the truth about this boy with secrets, Shahrzrad no longer believes the gossip about a “murdering madman, hell-bent on senseless brutality” (198).
As Shazi strays from her purpose to discover these secrets, she has to battle with her heart and acknowledge her diluted power. Although frustrated by potential betrayal, her curiosity and her determination to win drive her forward. Tariq Imran al-Ziyad further complicates circumstances for Shazi. Her childhood sweetheart, Tariq plans to storm the city to rescue and reclaim his beloved. Charming, devious, strong, and athletic with a refreshing candor and a ready humor, Tariq is a force to be reckoned with.
The action, subplots, and rich detail make this book a page-turning and picturesque delight, despite its 388 pages and it recycled plot based on The Arabian Nights. A masterful story teller, Ahdieh also shares insight about the mesmerizing power of story and the force of love: “For love, people consider the unthinkable. . . and often achieve the impossible” (77). My only disappointment is with the ending, which is rather abrupt and somewhat nebulous. Perhaps those features have left open the option for a sequel!
- Posted by Donna