A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights
Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.
She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.
I loved this book, it was simply beautiful.
I haven’t read a book in 3rd person in a while, and it was done so well. The different POVs were easy to decipher and I think it did a fantastic job at getting us inside the heads of the various characters, as well as letting us see them under different lights. All of the characters see themselves in such different ways than they are portrayed and I thought the various lenses really helped us see the different sides of each of them and only made the relationships between the characters more believable and deeper.
I absolutely loved the relationship between Shazi and Khalid. Both of the characters are interesting to begin with, but the two of them together are a force. I actually wasn’t a huge fan of Shazi in the beginning, I thought she was arrogant (a term Despina – her handmaiden – is not scared to point out) and a bit full of herself, if not determined and curious. Khalid had me intrigued from that first night they spent together, he’s mysterious, conflicted, and bearing the weight of a terrible punishment.
Shazi is brutally honest with Khalid from the beginning and I knew she was going to force him to confront his own feelings. Watching her try to figure him out, while battling her own curiosity and growing affection toward him, was so interesting. She never changed as a person, but she was able to see past her first impressions and allowed herself to admit she was wrong. I think it showed a lot of personal growth on her side. She becomes softer when she’s with him, while never handing over any of her strength. Similarly, Khalid is able to find a partner in Shazi, she doesn’t forgive him for his past, but she proves to him in other ways that he is not a monster and he begins to live up to the man he has wanted to be. The Khalid we see in the end is finally able to confront his fears and become a true leader. I also loved that their love for each other never seemed selfish in the scheme of the curse, especially with the role Shazi’s father and first love played in everything.
All of the secondary characters are interesting and well developed, though I really hope we see a bit more of Despina and Jalal’s relationship in the next installment (their short story really helped me get inside their heads a bit better). They each have different motives for ultimately the same problem – Shazi being the new Calipha. And watching each of them deal with that problem, and seeing which emotions they resort to, and what actions that leads them to is very interesting.
Overall, this book was so amazingly written. I have so many highlighted passages. The writing was lyrical yet easy, it was touching and conveyed so much emotion in so few words. I can’t wait to see what’s next for Shazi and Khalid, for Rey and the kingdom, and to learn more about the magic that Shazi’s father has been meddling with. And finally, isn’t this book great in it’s diversity, it’s set in the Greek/Persian empire, in the twist of a tale that isn’t Grimm based (though you know I love those)!