SYNOPSIS: A retelling of The 1001 Nights, Khalid, the caliph of Khorasan, has killed every bride he has taken for unknown reasons. Shahrzad’s best friend, Shiva, was one of those unlucky souls and she wants revenge. She volunteers to be Khalid’s next wife, but as she plots to kill the boy who killed her best friend, she begins to discover that things aren’t as black and white as they seem.
I don’t even know where to begin this book is that good. First of all the prose of this novel is so beautiful and there are so many amazing quotes in varying degrees of emotion. I was more spellbound with each word written and the pacing is so fast that you can read 100 pages and not even realize it. I loved watching Khalid and Shazi battle each other with wits and I loved it even more when they developed a mutual respect and love for each other. I also enjoyed that trust was a big factor in their relationship since both of them were actively lying to each other. I found it interesting every time Khalid was referred to as a “monster” and Shazi was referred to as a “beauty” because it added this whole Beauty and the Beast element to this already rich tale. I loved how fierce their emotions were, especially in regards to each other. I think some of my favorite moments were when Khalid let Shazi fight her own battles and she fought them so well. Her wit is highly impressive. I also love Shazi’s relationship with her handmaiden, Despina. It was nice to see them go from being wary of each other to being good friends. Female friendships are important and I hope we see more of Despina in the next book. The subplot with Rahim and Tariq really heightens the tension because originally Shazi is on their side, but as she learns more about Khalid her feelings change and their noble cause stops seeming so noble. There’s also a sub-subplot that involves Shazi’s father and his feelings of guilt that I’m excited to see more of in the next book. There is an element of magic that is introduced, but not fully explored that will be really fascinating as everything comes to its head. I also love how each character has a foil to tell them to stop being stupid. Shazi has Despina, Khalid has his cousin, Jalal (who is so great and I love him), and Tariq has Rahim. All these relationships are so unique and you can tell how much they all care about each other (although Khalid is so aloof it’s sometimes hard to tell). The only thing I’m concerned about is Shazi’s sister. She’s introduced in the beginning and then kind of disappears from the narrative. I hope she has some role to play in the next book because I’d hate for her to just be an afterthought detail. I think one concern against so many pros is good odds and I highly recommend this beauty of a book!