Blurb: “Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not be next. And so she is taken in her sister’s place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin’s court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead.”
*I was sent this book by the publisher but the publisher but this in no way affects my review*
The premise for this book may sound very similar to The Wrath and The Dawn which was recently very popular in the Booktube world. That’s because they’re both based off the fairy tale One Thousand and One Nights.
The story opens with a village waiting nervously for Lo-Melkhiin to arrive and pick a new wife. The protagonist – unnamed- expresses her worries that her sister will be chosen because she is both intelligent and beautiful. Not wanting this series of events to come true, she approaches her mother’s sister and begs to be made to look like her sister: “dress me in my sister’s clothes, braid my hair as you would hers and give me those charms she would not grieve to lose.” (Think of it as a less dramatic “I volunteer as tribute” moment from The Hunger Games) The plan works and Lo-Melkhiin takes the protagonist back to his city and marries her. On their first night together, he asks if she is afraid on him and she says no. He then says he knows that she took the place of her sister and asks about her. The protagonist -surprised – wakes up the next day and the next… and the next.
The protagonist struggles to meet and talk to people as they all avoid her, believing that she will not be around long enough to get to know, so naturally she’s feeling iscolated. She gets to meet Lo-Melkhiin’s mother who is intrigued by the protagonist because she doesn’t fear her son. The mother says she will tell her a story about what made Lo-Melkhiin the way he is now.
The basis for the rest of the plot is the protagonist exploring her new home and getting to know her new husband.
So it’s clear that the latest “trope” in Young Adult literature is fairytale retellings. Which is all well and good, I love fairytale retellings! However, there is a way to make a good retelling, and this wasn’t it.
While I really enjoyed the world building that, for me, was the only redeeming quality of this books.
There were no names given apart from Lo-Melkhiin. This made it very hard for me to feel like the protagonist was more than 2D and throughout reading the book I just felt disconnected. Characters are referred to as “my sister”, “my father’s father” stripping them of any identity which would have vastly improved the reading experience. On top of this, there were no descriptions of the characters. It’s hard to care or connect to a story when they plot and ideas are there but the characters are wibbly wobbly figures that don’t really fit in place.
I know the bare basics of the original story but in terms of the relationship between the protagonist and Lo-Melkhiin and the fact it’s Young Adult, it’s only natural to expect some kind of creepy relationship to form as a result of the forced marriage. But that was not the case. Nor was there even a mutual respect between the pair by the conclusion.
Because the story was so lacking in terms of character, I actually found myself skipping sections and even, dare I say it, hoping it would end.
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