Before she could stop her hands they reached for him, as if they existed for no other reason but to touch him
In this exquisitely written novel inspired by the classic A Thousand and One Nights, Shahrzad is a teenage girl living in the most dangerous place a teenage girl could – the Caliphate of Khorasan – where, every night the young Caliph, Khalid, takes a new bride, only to have her killed the following dawn.
Following the death of Shazi’s best friend at the hand of the murderous boy king she volunteers to take the place of his next bride, with every intention to kill him and end the suffering once and for all.
First Shazi must survive the dawn, and she does this by enthralling Khalid with a story from A Thousand and One Nights, leaving him enraptured and without an ending as the sun begins to rise. She continues this tactic, continually evading the dawn, until the Caliph becomes enthralled not just with her stories, but with her.
The only hiccup in Shazi’s plan is that she soon begins to see there is more to Khalid than the monster who murdered her friend; and as the layers of his character are expertly peeled away, we too begin to sympathise and ultimately fall in love with this beautifully complex and troubled character.
I can find no other word to describe Ms. Ahdieh’s prose but ‘exquisite’; every word has been carefully crafted to create a breathtaking picture of this wondrous world. Told from multiple third person points of view, each character is captivating in their own way, all with a level of complexity and depth I’ve not encountered for a long time.
This is a story that raises your pulse, challenges your mind and tugs at your heartstrings. A fascinating concept beautifully executed – well done Renee Ahdieh.
I own this book.
Reviewed by Ash Bye. Review originally published on goodreads.com May 18, 2015