“For nothing, not the sun, not the rain, not even the brightest star in the darkest sky, could begin to compare to the wonder of you.”
Is this a quote from the book or my actual feelings towards it? The world may never know. I feel like I haven’t read a book with such a beautiful prose in quite some time. Ahdieh’s prose and lush descriptions of food and scenery elevated this already wonderful story to a whole new level of perfection.
And since I already mentioned the prose, let’s talk about the writing first, shall we? Let’s just get it out of the way: the writing of this book is magnificent. The prose is beautiful and rich – but not purple – the descriptions of food and scenery are detailed and wonderfully beautiful. I could see the vivid images of everything Ahdieh described, of every place, every food, and every colour. Her writing really captivates and intrigues you, drawing you further into her magical world.
The world itself is a very beautiful one. She has clearly done her research and approached the culture and the history with a delicacy, interest, and respect that, unfortunately, is not often found in YA authors. She’s done her research and it shows and, unlike other authors who chose similar settings for their stories, she’s never disrespectful towards the culture that inspired her.
The greatest asset of the book, however, is the characters themselves. Shahrzad was the female lead I deserve and the hero this world needs. She is fierce, she is smart, brave, and loving. She is a force to be reckoned with and, at the same time, a girl you can easily love and care for. I think I loved every character that was introduced. Despina and her relationship to Shahrzad were such a great addition to the book. If I’m being honest, I almost jumped off my bed when Despina was introduced; I think it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a Greek character in a fantasy novel.
“A true plague of a girl. And yet a queen in every sense of the word.”
As for Khalid? I would like to shake Ahdieh’s hand just for making me love him so much. He does fall a bit into the mysterious-bad-boy-that-is-good-deep-down trope, a trope I’ve come to hate, but he is just so much more than that. There’s a depth to his character and the relationships he has with those around him that these characters – or any sort of YA male protagonists – usually lack. It was fairly obvious from the very beggining that there’s more to him than a cold-blooded murderer and I was really glad to see Shahrzad constantly calling him out and that his behaviour was never glossed over or justified. Another character that really grew on me was Jalal, whose quick wit and humour made him one of my favourites.
“And he smiled a smile to shame the sun.”
And now, it’s time for romance. I doubt I’ve seen romance this good many times before or that I’ll see it many times in the future. The chemistry between Shahrzad and Khalid was palpable, almost unbearable at times. Yes, it was a bit insta-lovey, but I didn’t really care; because, not even 100 pages in, I was already rooting for them. I wanted them to be happy, to find solace in each other. I’m not a huge fan of fantasy leaning heavily on romance; I usually find the author favouring the romance and leaving the world undeveloped. But Ahdieh’s world-building was phenomenal and she never sacrificed her story or her world to leave room for the romance to develop. And let’s just say, that they were not the only romance worthy of your time of the book.
I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that this is Ahdieh’s debut novel. Honestly, if I didn’t know, I could never tell. This is the work of a true and experienced artist, a book that deserves all the hype surrounding it.
“When I was a boy, my mother would tell me that one of the best things in life is the knowledge that our story isn’t over yet. Our story may have come to a close, but your story is still yet to be told. Make it a story worthy of you”