A blonde, brown-skinned princess, cursed at a birthday party to a certain death and saved by a weak magic that promises sleep instead, all tied to a spindle: you know where this one is going, although this is as much reinterpretation as retelling.
Generations after the Storyteller Queen defeated the demon who controlled a king and killed his many wives (A Thousand Nights, 2015), demons remain imprisoned, but one has spent the time plotting and growing stronger. Kharuf and Qamih, rival kingdoms, are the demon’s pawns, particularly cruel Prince Maram and lovely Princess Zahrah, the Little Rose, cursed to become a vehicle for the demon. Narrated by spinner and fighter Yashaa, who, with the help of three friends, rescues and then eventually falls in love with Zahrah, this retelling is needlessly complicated. It depends too much on familiarity with the companion novel and does little with its Middle Eastern influences; indeed, such flourishes as gold-dust–trailing piskeys and sprites seem Disney-fied, while the demons here are purely evil rather than complex natural forces. The often lovely writing and the surprising and original ending can’t redeem the underdeveloped characters, unsubtle repeat imagery, or bland romance.
This companion to the stellar A Thousand Nights shares the trappings but not the spirit. (Fantasy. 12 & up)