Friday, November 10, 2023

Book Review - Every Rising Sun: A Novel by Jamila Ahmed


Every Rising Sun: A Novel by Jamila Ahmed is a retelling of the classic, One Thousand and One Nights. In twelfth century Persia, a young girl, Shaherazade, is the daughter of one of Malik's (the sultan’s) viziers. She spends her day idling around the palace courtyards, reading, and weaving stories to tell to others.

As she explores the palace, she stumbles upon Malik's beloved wife entangled with her lover who isn’t her husband in the middle of the palace grounds where anyone could find the pair. Shaherazade is conflicted on telling Malik about his wife’s betrayal. She is weighed down deeply by this decision.

If Shaherazade keeps her secret and Malik finds out about it, Shaherazade and her family will be at risk because in her mind he would know that she didn’t say anything. However, if she does tell, she worries what Malik might do to the messenger and if he will even believe her. Shaherazade decides that she will tell Malik the truth as she becomes burdened by guilt. She weaves the story of his wife’s betrayal into a story and leaves it anonymously for him to read. Little did she know that her story would set the Seljuk Empire on fire and endanger everything she held dear.

Malik, who was well known for his gentle demeanor is now enraged by his wife’s betrayal. He decides to behead her in the public square to teach her a lesson. However, his anger doesn’t subside even after beheading his wife, whom he genuinely loved. He decides to take a new bride each night and then kill her in the morning, as his wife’s betrayal threatened his manhood.

His province and townspeople are angered by his bloodlust and indiscriminate killings. They are worried about protecting their daughters against Malik and his anger. Shaherazade feels that this is all her fault, and decides to offer herself to Malik for marriage. She hopes that it will calm the people from revolting and help absolve her guilt. 

Shaherazade persuades her beloved and esteemed father to offer her up as a bride to Mailk. She knows that Malik would accept her father’s offer because they are friends. She has loved Malik since she was a child. As a treat to Malik, on their wedding night, she tells him a story to enrapture him. He is spellbound by the story and wants to learn more but she cuts the story short as the sun ascends to ensure that she will live another day. She continues doing that each night in hopes of ensuring her safety from him. Malik attends his royal duties in the daytime and they are only able to spend time together at night.

As much as Malik enjoys her stories, his rage is too deep for Shaherazade alone to quell. Therefore, she and her father persuade Mailk to leave Persia and assist Saladin, an ally,  in the fight against the Crusaders in Palestine. She and her father hope that the fight will help burn out the excess hatred in Mailk. However, her plan doesn’t go exactly as she wishes as she soon realizes that there are plots to overthrow Malik and hurt her people. Will Shaherazade be able to protect her people while saving Malik from his burning rage?

I was excited to read this book but I struggled with getting into it. The author’s writing style was a bit hard for me to find enjoyable to read. The author’s prose felt wordy and bulky.  However, once I did get into the flow of the book it was a bit more enjoyable.

I found myself looking forward to reading Shaherazade’s stories. Some of her stories were standalone while others were connected but at times, it was confusing to keep track of the stories and the characters in them.  That was especially true when combining Shaherazade’s stories with the real events concerning Malik. I found myself preferring the side stories than the main story and I felt that took away from the main story line.  When the pair was faced with dangers and struggles from their journey I didn’t really connect with them. 

I found the book to be boring and moved slowly at times. The book was over 400 pages but moved at a snail’s pace with nothing happening for several pages at a time.  However, the ending came about swiftly and had an unexpected twist. It felt like the author left it up to the readers to decide or there could be room for a sequel. I thought the book was an okay read. I wish the novel just had contained Shaherazade’s stories and that would have been a lot more satisfying to read.

No comments:

Post a Comment