Note: Spoilers for Book One, The Wrath & The Dawn
This is the second and concluding volume of a re-imagining of One Thousand and One Nights (also called The Arabian Nights.)
This retelling by Ahdieh adds a lot of appeal for today’s young adults. In Book One, we found that the handsome 18-year-old king Khalid is not at all what spunky sixteen-year-old Shahrzad (known as “Shazi”) expected. Khalid marries a succession of young girls, and all of them are killed the next morning; Shazi thinks Khalid must be the epitome of evil. Nevertheless, she actually volunteers to be a bride, with the intent of getting revenge for the death of a previous bride who was her best friend. But she discovers that Khalid, rather than being a one-note villain who is easy to hate, is not without charm and humor. He also seems to feel a great deal of inner pain and suffering, the reasons for which he keeps secret at first. Shazi never dreamed she would find hidden depths in Khalid, and eventually she learns the reasons for all that he has done, and she falls in love with him. But at the end of Book One, she leaves Khalid after a lethal magical storm started by her father. Shazi is determined to find a way to undo the curse on Khalid so the killing spiral can stop.
As Book Two begins, Shazi and her sister Irsa are in the desert camp where Shazi’s former boyfriend Tariq and others are plotting Khalid’s destruction. Shazi decides she must go see the magus Musa Zaragoza for help. And to get there, why, she just takes off at night on her magic carpet! Musa introduces her to Artan Temujin, a boy close to her own age with powerful magic. He in turn promises to take her and Khalid to see his aunt; she will know how to break the curse.
Eventually, it all gets sorted out, with those who so badly want power and influence being thwarted by better angels, most of whom, it might be noted, are females.
Discussion: This saga follows a very familiar pattern: sassy, independent girl meets brooding bad boy, a boy the girl wants very much to hate. But she sees through cracks in his forbidding facade, and she falls for him. Throw in an exotic setting and a hot romance, and you get a very popular entry into the young adult market.
I did think that the villains were a bit too caricatured, and the Epilogue way too short at the end of this book (opening the way however, one supposes, for a plethora of fan fiction). But the duology still ends on a satisfying note.
There weren’t as many “swoony” scenes between Khalid and Shazi in this book, but there are some nice thoughts about their feelings for one another, as when Shazi explains to Tariq why she is choosing Khalid:
“‘I do love you, Tariq.’ With great care, Shahrzad settled a palm against his cheek. ‘But . . . he’s where I live.’”
And Shazi on Khalid:
“…they were two parts of a whole. He did not belong to her. And she did not belong to him. It was never about belonging to someone. It was about belonging together.”
Evaluation: This second and concluding volume of a love story with an “Arabian Nights” flavor has more politics than romance, but ends on a gratifying note.
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2016