The Storyteller’s Daughter
In this highly enjoyable YA novel, Cameron Dokey retells the eastern story of Shahrazad with grace, romance, and a serious yet uplifting tone. When King Shahrayar is betrayed by his wife, she curses him just before she dies: until he finds a woman whose heart he can see truly — and who can understand him likewise — he will have no peace. In his bitterness and coldness, Shahrayar proclaims that he will marry and kill a woman each night until one should step forward and offer herself freely as a victim. She will then be the last to die. Shahrazad, the daughter of Shahrayar’s vizier, offers herself as bride to Shahrayar, hoping that she will be able to lead his heart back to humanity . . . before it is too late.
Dokey tells this story in prose that is both beautiful and easy to read — simple, but poetic. Her language is pleasant, her characters well-drawn, and her story well-crafted. The book is wonderfully romantic, yet not in the least sappy. And the story she tells is so uplifting. Shahrazad is a terrific exemplar of courage and self-sacrifice — and in the end, her actions are upheld as ‘perfect love casts out fear’. In general, the book’s portrayals of love and the insight of wisdom pleased me very much. I also found the characters quite interesting — Dokey’s ‘limited omniscient’ narrative voice allows the reader to look into the minds of both Shahrazad and Shahrayar, showing the strengths, weaknesses, and conflicts of each. They both come alive as very believable characters — within the context of the obviously mythic story, of course. Other secondary characters, such as Shahrazad’s father and her sister Dinarzad, also come across as very real people.
There’s no doubt from the beginning where this book is going, since the story is well-known. But that doesn’t in the least detract from its enjoyable qualities — and makes the inevitable ending all the more wonderful when it finally comes. In characterizing her lead characters by virtue and wisdom, while keeping them very much fallible human beings, Dokey has created a beautiful reworking of a classic tale. Oh, and did I mention that there is not one jot of inappropriate material? I loved this book.