Expected publication: May 12th 2015
You know those books that you start reading and then you just can’t put down? No matter what is going on in your life, all you really want to do is just go back to reading that book? How when it’s over all you can do is howl and say “no!”? That’s how I feel about this book. I am obsessed. I never wanted it to end. I need the next book now!
Full disclosure, I love a good fairy tale retelling. Going in I was aware of the One Thousand and One Nights tale, but I held no love for it. Really, what was to love? The male lead (The King) is a serial killer, and yes he pardons his wife, and yes, she’s much smarter than him, and girls rule, and all that. However, he’s still a serial killer. So I went into this book very curious to see if there was an effort to make the King more likable. It’s a very rare book where one of the male leads is largely reprehensible, and yet the story remains a good one.
Well this one totally worked for me. The King (Caliph), Khalid, is human, and there is a reason behind the killings. There is an effort to sympathize with his struggle. There are really no major villain in this story, although there are some shady minor characters who will most likely play a bigger part of being bad, bad, men in the next book. All the major characters have flaws, and that’s o.k - it makes them a bit more real.
The book is told in the third person, which both helps and hurts. It helps in that while the book mainly follows Shahrzad (Shazi), you do get to check in on what everyone else is doing, and get an inside into events the main character is unaware of. The only other way to have this happen would be to jump around to various first person accounts, and I just don’t think it would have worked for this book. Khalid, is a very reserved and stoic character, and getting inside may have revealed a bit too much as the book needs him to remain a bit of a mystery. At the same time, you don’t really get a chance to understand him or his motivations, so it’s hard to root for him. Likewise, I think not getting into Shazi’s head also helps tremendously. When you know too much about a character, and realize all the stupid things going on in their head, the tendency can be to dislike the main female character. With that bit of distance, Shazi becomes an awesome, strong and fearless female, which is a good thing. Yes, she changes her mind, and yes she has a major internal struggle, but not knowing her every thought makes it all a bit more believable.
This all leads to the love triangle portion of the book. Of course there is one, but it’s a very interesting one. Both love interests have some major flaws, and without being in Shazi’s head, it’s hard to tell which one she should be with. Is Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, and the one willing and ready to rescue her at all costs the right one? Or is Khalid, her husband, who is willing to give up everything for her the perfect choice? Is her love for Tariq based on habit and childish notions? Although, I hope it’s not is her love for Khalid the result of Stockholm Syndrome? We just don’t know, and while I usually grit my teeth at these triangles, this one has me very curious to see the outcome. I just hope she picks one, because there is NOTHING that annoys me more than introducing a triangle and leaving it unresolved.
My only slightly negative commentary would be the writing itself. There is no question that the book itself is incredibly well written. My only hesitation is in some of the vocabulary. I am all for including tough and challenging words into books for Teens. However, there were several occasions while reading this book, when I had to pause and contemplate the word choice. I almost think that the author in an attempt to toss in these high-level vocabulary words loses the purpose and pacing of the scene.
Bottom Line: This is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. I absolutely loved it.