A lush, hypnotic, swoony re-imagining of the “Arabian Nights” framing story.
Sixteen-year-old Shahrzad jilts her sweetheart to wed the “murderer, monster, madman” Khalid Ibn al-Rashid, Caliph of Khorasan, planning vengeance for his serial murders of his brides, including her beloved cousin. Clever, stubborn, and reckless, Shahrzad wields stories like weapons as she piques her new husband’s interest and maneuvers through palace intrigue. But she never envisaged that the cold, brilliant, tortured boy king could kindle her desire, nor that her spurned betrothed would raise a rebellion to rescue her. Redolent of perfumes and spices, luxuriant with jewels and silks, this debut pulls authentic details from across cultures and centuries and mixes them with magic and mysticism to concoct an exotic storybook world—albeit with violence and candid sensuality that take it well out of the realm of children’s books. While the steamy love triangle takes center stage, secondary characters add excitement with their treacherous schemes, murderous plots, and soapy melodrama. Witty, brash, and passionate, Shahrzad makes a good foil for both her impossibly valiant and infatuated first love and for the angry and self-loathing Khalid, cursed to make impossible choices. As the disparate plot threads intertwine to a heartbreaking climax, the conflagrant cliffhanger will leave those readers enthralled by the forbidden romance both yearning for and dreading the concluding volume.
Dreamily romantic, deliciously angst-y, addictively thrilling. (Fantasy. 14 & up)