Shazi’s best friend is dead and the Monster that killed her and many others is the king. To avenge Shiva, Shazi volunteers to marry the king in hopes of staying alive long enough to kill him. But, all it takes is a single dawn before she realizes that this new world is more complex and dangerous than she imagined and that monster…is kind of hot.
I had heard a lot of good things about this book and that’s why I decided to read it. That and the concept of a retelling of Arabian Nights intrigued me. However, I am having a hard time deciding where to start with this book. I want you to know that I really did enjoy this by the end but I had my doubts at the beginning.
This story begins suddenly and you feel like you are thrown in the middle, which I did not appreciate. There is also an aggressive amount of descriptions about outfits. I wonder if Ahdieh was a fashion designer in another life. Although I appreciated her word-based painting…I didn’t need any more descriptions of colorful pants.
The biggest concern for me though was Shazi. Ahdieh took a risk with her main characters, Shazi isn’t an underdog, nor a princess–the usual YA tropes–and really her backstory is limited. There is a reason so many YA books star the underdog .You can forgive character flaws of an underdog, but a wealthy teenager with a handsome man and a cushy life…is much harder to forgive. So when Shazi comes up with a rather ridiculous and naive scheme, I just wanted to shake my head and groan.
By the middle of the story, Ahdieh has rescued her main character by highlighting the basic challenges of being a woman in this society and thus providing us with underdog-like qualities. Shazi is brave to the point of reckless, strong to the point of rude, and so direct it’s dangerous. This all means that she plays a good game and wins the heart of the reader by simply being an independent woman in a man’s world.
This man is Khalid who, while quick to anger, is insanely sexy for a book character. Ahdieh is careful in writing him which I admire she makes him angry, strong and brooding without being abusive to Shazi, a careful line that cannot be crossed without ruining this character.
The direction of this overall storyline is completely opaque. There are few surprises and no major twists but the way it unfolds is masterful. Ahdieh shows us that we can know the end and still enjoy the middle. The only minor surprise is the true cause of Khalid’s monstrous nature. While reading this, I knew the general direction that was going in, but the details were unique and heart wrenching.
This storyline knowledge can even be extended to the second book. I had hopes of where Shazi’s path would lead but was scared that the sequel to this story would focus on new characters. I was relieved reading the book two teaser, when I discovered that it too would focus on our king and queen. Following an already revealed relationship is unique for a YA novel, whether it’s friendship or romantic, final or not. Often times, the relationship development parallels the plot. While the relationship and climax of this novel are directly entwined, I believe book two will lead us to new territory for the YA genre where feelings are known and yet the story isn’t over yet.
Overall, I would give this a 4 out of 5. It would be a 5 out of 5 if not for the slow start.
Main character: 5 out of 5
Side characters: 3 out of 5, Khalid is great but the others are thin.
Plot: 4 out of 5
World: 5 out of 5 thank to detail in the writing
Pacing: First half, 2 out of 5, second half 5 out of 5
Writing: 5 out of 5
Procrastination and Giggles,
The Red Queen
P.S. “Get up, Shahrzad al-Khayzuran. You kneel before no one. Least of all me.”