First Lines: Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to my village looking for a wife. She that he chose of us would be a hero. She would give the others life.
I saw this at the library and snatched it up, even though I already had too many books in my arms. I was not leaving this behind. I love the concept of 1,001 Nights and I really love seeing its retellings. I see them so rarely and I just eat them up.
When they see the dust clouds on the horizon, they know their time is up. Ruthless and heartless, their king Lo-Melkhiin has arrived to find a wife. This is, as everyone knows, a death sentence to the most beautiful girl in the village. Desperate to save her beautiful sister, a girl takes her sister’s place. As Lo-Melkhiin takes her back to the qasr (his palace, essentially), she sees everything as though it was the last time. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her. And day after day, she remains alive. She begins exploring this merciless ruler…only to find out he wasn’t always like this. Something went wrong. Far away, her sister mourns her death. Her sister’s pain brings a kind of magic to her. As that power grows, she begins to wonder if she can save the kingdom…and all the girls who could soon be in her place.
Let’s start with the positives. Our narrator (who really doesn’t have a name at all) is definitely clever enough and strong enough to be a good protagonist. She carries the story well.
And I love that it’s a diverse story. It’s so fascinating to read about a life and customs that are so unlike your own. I don’t understand why it’s taken this long to really bring these stories to light when other cultures are full of strong men and women too. They have stories just like we do. We need to be telling those stories. Ok, I’m getting off my soapbox.
And, weirdly, Lo-Melkhiin felt like the kind of evil villain you sort of like. Like in one of those “love to hate them” ways. That was…interesting.
But I did have a lot of issues with this book. For starters, it feels really bogged down, especially in about the 2nd quarter of the book. (Not quite the beginning, but not quite the middle of the book either.) It wasn’t quite clicking.
It wasn’t quite what I was expecting either. Perhaps I look at this story in too much of a romantic light. (I saw another review that pointed out how sexist the original story is: a girl who can prove she is clever is “rewarded” by getting to marry a murderer. Touche.) But I truly did expect this to be a lot like the original story and…it wasn’t. It throws in elements of magic and it strays from the source material. (The narrator isn’t really a storyteller. She tells stories…but now like she does in the original story.) So some of my rating comes from my disappointment in that regard.
To be fair, I do want to comment that this is meant to be a thought-provoking read, I think. I think this story wants you to think. It wants to show you that women have a strength that men don’t always understand and tend to underestimate. It wants to show you different types of power: power that comes from fear and power that comes from love.
I just thought I’d be getting something more…romantic with this book. This goes back to my expectations not quite being met.
Overall, it’s an interesting story, but it and my expectations were no sympatico and therefore I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have.