“This dangerous girl. This captivating beauty. This destroyer of worlds and creator of wonder.”
Every morning in Khorasan the Caliph murders a bride, extinguishing their life without a whisper of why. His people are angry at the heartache he causes across the kingdom, but none more so than Shahrzad who is determined to bring revenge on the man who killed her best friend. Making the decision to volunteer to be his next bride Shahrzad sets herself on a dangerous path as every night she must weave enchanting tales to the Caliph in order to keep herself alive for another day. But nothing is as it seems, the Caliph is more than she first thought, and there’s more secrets behind the murders than just a king with a love for bloodshed. Khorasan is on the brink of breaking apart and Shahrzad has just landed right in the middle of it.
Definitely going to include spoilers because I’m reviewing the duology together.
Fairy tale retelling? Sign me up. I didn’t know too much about 1,001 nights before going into this series, something I am going to correct, so I was quite blind to what elements might influence this tale.
Not going to lie, this didn’t live up to my expectations at all. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, because I did immensely, it was a easy, fast-paced read and I’m glad I had both books so I could finish it straight away. Ahdieh writes so beautifully, the way she described the world was so lush and rich it was easy to imagine the world that she was building. Since I’m also used to reading more European based fantasy it was great to finally get my teeth into something more diverse. Yet I was expecting something a little more gritty than what I got.
It was a lot more angst-filled than I had expected. I thought it would be darker, what with Khalid murdering young girls every morning, instead it was very introspective. The struggle Shahrzad had with her feelings takes up an awful lot of the book… and yet her romance with Khalid seems too rushed. It takes barely two nights of her story-telling for Khalid to decide she is the one to escape the previous fate of his brides, and one kiss for Shahrzad to all but give herself over to him. Though Ahdieh makes sure to keep her internal struggle at the centre of the novel, it didn’t convince me quite as much as it probably should have. Maybe it’s because forbidden love isn’t for me, but something just missed the mark. The romance and the trust between them that built up over both novels however was lovely to see in a YA romance, especially the trust, which probably sold me on their romance more than anything else.
Playing in the background to their relationship was a highly intriguing political plot, magic and background stories. Or the “what-could-have-been’s” of this tale as they weren’t drawn on as much as I believe they could have been. I was left with so many questions at the end of this duology that a part of me was left completely unsatisfied for these characters that I had begun to care for. The magic that hung over the whole story within Shahrzad, her father, Artan and the curse itself, seemed to hold so much possibility. Ahdieh had a unique way of describing the magic that engulfed her world, and it appeared like she had a whole background tale to go with it. Yet it was a passing note in Artan’s few appearances as a quick fix to Khalid’s curse. I wanted more of an explanation and was disappointed that this disappeared as soon as the book that caused Khalid’s curse was destroyed. Shahrzad also seemed to have enormous potential with magic, but it was mainly used for escape and flight. I was waiting for a badass moment of magic and it never came. Thankfully she still had plenty of badass moments without it.
Another thing that seemed all too convenient was how by the end of the novel almost everyone was paired off in their happily ever afters. Though only a brief mention in the epilogue of a potential romance between the rejected Tariq and new ruler Yasmine, I could have done without it. These two characters barely interacted – I actually don’t think they ever did – and shoving them towards each other felt like a cop out. At least Irsa and Rahim had a small amount of build up, which was incredibly cute, before their romance was even mentioned. No surprises that their ending broke my heart.
Another thing that I believe should have been focused on my was the actual destruction of Khalid’s curse… It almost seemed too easy, and once it was done we never got complete confirmation that it had worked. What had been the main focus of the first book seemed to slip into the background a little. Maybe Ahdieh was trying to deal with too much in the second book, maybe I’m just picky, but a little line about whether or not the people understood their Caliph in the end would’ve been nice.
I enjoyed the second book a lot more than the first, we were given more of an insight into the whole of Ahdieh’s cast, and it wasn’t so heavily focused on the struggle of Shahrzad’s feelings since she was no longer struggling with them. It had a quicker pace, with an intriguing story, though I am bitter that Artan’s story wasn’t explained further and that poor Rahim and Irsa had their happy ending torn from them (because lets face it he was the only truly decent boy in this duology).
The language and the vivid images Ahdieh created were beautiful, the characters were flawed and human, the premise interesting. I just wish that these books had been bigger to be able to include everything that Ahdieh was trying to convey.