Passion and betrayal; swordfights, spells, and sacrifice; and (of course) a flying carpet—all spill over in this culmination of the lush reimagining of The Arabian Nights that began with The Wrath and the Dawn (2015).
Amid a devastating magical storm, Shahrzad is torn from her beloved Khalid, the cursed caliph of Khorasan. Held captive by her first love and the alliance massing against the reputed “bloodthirsty monster” Khalid, Shahrzad will need all her wits, courage, and stubbornness to break the curse, stop the war, and master her own awakening powers. Ahdieh plunges readers immediately into a complex tangle of political intrigue, dark magic, and twisted relationships with little explanation; various subplots are dropped along the way and other events never clearly explained. But the crowded, scattershot narrative is more than sustained by the heady prose, mixing poetic allusion and trenchant earthiness, redolent of exotic scents and sights and textures. The fairy-tale plotting is grounded in pure, raw emotion: Khalid’s tortured nobility and leashed self-loathing, Shahrzad’s brazen ingenuity and fiery devotion, and every other character’s overflowing shame, rage, compassion, pain, loyalty, frustration, desire, loneliness, guilt, grief, and oily ambition. Above all there is the shattering, triumphant catharsis of love—between man and woman, parent and child, teacher and student, sisters and cousins, friends old and new. In a story about stories, love is “the power to speak without words.”
Thrillingly full of feeling. (Fantasy. 14 & up)