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. (goodreads.com)
THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS.
Just to be safe.
This was our May YAck book and I’ve never read ARABIAN NIGHTS so I don’t have a basis for comparison. Laura had to tell me that the premise of a guy kills his wives and ends up getting reformed by one of them and things are happy again IS the premise. It’s the story. Fantastic. I didn’t dig it.
I will say it was a very compelling voice and the story less the romance was actually very intriguing. I was never bored reading, at times I really wanted to know what was going to happen next, I do love Despina, and there were a few tears toward the end. So the fact that I still liked the story despite the fact that I rather hated the romance, which was a central part to the story, is a testament to Ahdieh’s writing chops. She has words here, no doubt about that. And it was a fine story.
But that romance. “Romance.”
No. I just couldn’t.
At the point in the story where Shazi starts really falling for him she doesn’t know any of the reasons why Khalid kills his wives. She just knows he does. Yet . . . she falls for him because there’s SOMETHING there that’s testifying to a huge secret. He’s kind to her and his eyes speak things, or something. He broods, she broods, it’s a match made in dead wife heaven. Or not. She’s the chick who writes love letters to death row inmates who murdered a dozen babies but he’s INNOCENT because it’s NOT HIS FAULT for REASONS. No.
And even after the reason is revealed, and I was so hoping it would be something substantial that would make me go AH YES THIS IS OKAY and slot that last piece of the book love puzzle into place, it just wasn’t enough. It showed that Khalid had no fight in him. At first he refused to accept his fate and then when that backfired he just consigned to it. No fighting, to resourcing, no problem-solving, nothing. Okay, let’s kill some bitches. Never mind the reason doesn’t make a ton of sense because the person inflicting it obviously didn’t think it through to the point that he was harming families in the same way he was claiming Khalid harmed his but, you know, DRAMATIC REASONS. The guy had a very one track mind when he was doing what he was doing.
This is just another brooding, dickhead boy story whom the girl falls for because he has REASONS for being the way he is and that makes it okay. She can accept the fact that HE KILLED HIS PREVIOUS WIVES. That’s fine. And it wasn’t even he who did it. Some guards did it while he hid. Such character. On top of that Shazi knew him for two months. Insta-love!
So yeah. Major issues with the romance. But the rest of it was actually really good. Unfortunately I was ultimately disappointed with the book because I was expecting so much more than the romance that I got. And I knew there was romance going in but I was very much let down that even after everything Khalid was still a wife murderer and Shazi loved him anyway. That’s not a hurdle for me to get over; it’s a brick wall for me to run in to. But everything else was actually really good. The WORDS are phenomenal, the story’s really compelling, I do like the characters, despite everything. The ancient world she’s working in is rich and vivid and I want to live there. The magic is intriguing despite the fact that it’s barely utilized in this story. But the romance is a killer for me. I just can’t get on board with it, no matter how hard I try.