Published by Penguin Publishing Group on May 12th 2015
Genres: Love & Romance, Young Adult
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.
This is an incredibly emotional and beautiful book. Warning: do not begin reading until you’ve cleared your schedule. Must read uninterrupted.
First of all, this book is beautifully written. Seriously, Renee Ahdieh has a way with words – her prose is so, so beautiful. So even if the plot had not been as great as it was, I would have continued reading anyway for the sake of each breathtaking sentence.
Second of all, it’s a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights. If you’re familiar with my reviews, you might know that I’m a huge fan of retellings (when they’re done right). Ahdieh does a spectacular job of bringing the story world to life and giving the story a fresh twist. Her version provides an explanation for the seemingly unnecessary murders of the Caliph’s innocent brides.
Shahrzad is a strong female protagonist. She’s brave and selfless and sharp. Basically, she’s volunteered to sacrifice her life. Shazi believes she’ll be the first to survive. (And she’s right, of course.) She struts around the palace and wields her new title like a weapon and it’s awesome. But she’s also cautious and clever, and so her attempts to extract information from characters like Captain al-Khoury, Jalal, and Despina make the book infinitely more interesting.
Shazi hates her new husband, Khalid, and plots to kill him – that is, until she begins to fall for him. And then she realizes the better course of action would be to discover the reason behind the deaths so she can put a stop to the murders. Through the alternate perspectives and Shazi’s own discoveries, it’s fairly easy to piece together the mystery behind the murders of the innocent brides.
Shazi and Khalid’s romance is slow and sweet. It’s intense. It’s steamy. And there’s built-in tension, because Shazi fears for her life each dawn. Every time she made a witty or biting remark, I applauded but also cringed. Would Khalid be angered or amused by her disrespect? Their mutual stubbornness presented challenges, and also their unwillingness to share their vulnerabilities.
The ending is especially interesting. The cliffhanger (I probably shouldn’t have expected anything less) made me especially anxious for book 2. Can I have it now? Pretty-please?
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