Saturday, January 20, 2024

Every Rising Sun

Every Rising Sun
  Every Rising Sun
Author:  Jamila Ahmed
Publication Information:  Henry Holt and Co. 2023. 432 pages.
ISBN:  1250887070 / 978-1250887078

Rating:   ★★★

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Shaherazade turned to Shahryar and said, 'May I have your permission to tell a story."

Favorite Quote:  "Men and women before you have been betrayed. Men and women after you will be betrayed. But to be betrayed is not to be broken. And to be broken is not be become a killer."

Alif Lailah. One thousand and one nights. Arabian nights. Most of us have heard of this collection of folk tales. Many more have heard some stories that come from this collection without perhaps realizing that they are part of a bigger collection. Aladdin. Sinbad the Sailor. Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. 

The stories date back centuries and have been gathered in different forms by different authors and narrators. What is universal in all the collections is the framework in which these individual tales exist. The story is of a ruler who would marry and the next morning execute the young woman he married because he was once betrayed by the one he loved. One of the brides, Shaherazade sets out to save herself and those who may come after. On the night of the wedding, she asks to tell a story. The story hangs in the balance when morning comes. The ruler gives her a one day reprieve for the story to be concluded that night. Each night and each morning, the pattern repeats for 1,000 nights. And on the 1,001st night, what becomes of Shaherazade? There is a commonly held belief as to what happens then.

This debut novel decides to envision this paradigm through the eyes of Shaherazade. It provides a love story, a family, a "history" of what happens in "real life" between the nights of Shaherazade's stories. Some of the tales are still there, but this is Shaherazade's story. The "real life" has palace intrigue, wars, politics, a marriage, a love triangle, deaths, and more. "The world has ended before. Each time it has arisen anew."

I love seeing these stories of my childhood brought to a new envisioning and perhaps to an audience that may not be as familiar with these tales. Perhaps, this book will send a reader in search of other renditions more classically told. 

The one concern I have is the inconsistencies in the characters. As this is Shaherazade's story and told through her eyes, the other characters including the Malik and the other women of this story do not materialize fully. The reader sees them only through Shaherazade's eyes even though significant calamities befall these characters, and they are responsible for significant turning points in this story.

Narrowing the focus, there are inconsistencies in Shaherazade's character itself. On the one hand is a strong young woman who makes a daring choice, who bets on herself to save not only herself but those around her, who gives sage counsel to warriors, and who is a warrior herself. So many of her decisions are based on the greater good. Yet, a main story point is Shaherazade's allowing herself to be pulled into a relationship that runs counter to all those choices. This ultimately leads to the ending of the book itself, which is considerable different than the ending I have heard in these tales in any prior version. 

The contradiction is not fully explained to the satisfaction of this reader. I can appreciate a good retelling, but enough of the original must remain for it to be a retelling. The ending, to me, is a key part. Perhaps, there is a sequel to come. Perhaps not. Nevertheless, the ending for me undermines the characterizations throughout the book for I do not see why or how.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment