I’ve been eyeing this book for months, and it was finally on sale so I snagged it up.
When I was a child, I LOVED fairy tales from India. I had several compilations, but nothing could compare to 1001 Nights. How could it? Sindbad? Aladdin? Ali Baba? I even had a vinyl of the stories, which I often listened on our old Russian record player.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this book. I kept thinking, how do you retell a story of stories? Will each individual tale be different? Will it end differently? I must know!
Well, it definitely delivered in the sense of giving it a unique take. The telling stories aspect was actually a very small part of it – Shahrzad’s life was more threatened by other forces than the king. I can see how that could be disappointing to some people, but I really didn’t mind it. I wanted a fresh take and I got it.
The writing and scenery was also beautiful. I felt myself drawn into the world, from the feel of the wind to the knot in Shahrzad’s stomach. The Middle Eastern setting felt very authentic as well.
The characters reminded me of those in Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier. The broken cursed boy. The trusted adviser. The fearless girl who is anything but. I think that’s part of the reason why I enjoyed this book as much as I did.
However, there was a fatal flaw that for me, washed the whole premise in disbelief (which could have been fixed with one sentence). There was no restriction of silence on the curse to kill 100 girls (and I don’t feel that this is spoiling – you learn it in the prologue). So, if the prince simply told his people ‘hey, this is the deal’ he could have saved everyone a whole lotta pain and torment.
I get the reason as to why he didn’t tell Shahrzad, but for the other women who died? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to tell them, even if right before death, to make peace? With their families? Maybe it makes too much sense. At least in the original story, the king was just a scorned asshole. Here, he cared for the women. It was just mind boggling.
Anyway, if you put that aside, I really liked this story, and while I don’t think I’ll be picking up the next one – it doesn’t appeal to me quite as much, I’m glad I read it.
If you’re looking for a Middle Eastern tale of love and woe that both awes in scenery and keeps you on your toes, this book is a great read. But keep in mind, you won’t be reading 1001 nights of stories – this is just a retelling of the main one with a twist.