I just read two YA novels retelling the story of the Arabian Nights. The biggest problem with a modern version of this story, at least for a YA audience, turns out to be rehabilitation*
of Shahrayar, the Sultan who is betrayed by his wife, kills her, and decides to marry a virgin a day, killing each new wife at sunrise so she can't betray him. (She can't bear him any heirs either, but neither of the books goes into that.) Anyway, it's hard to provide a convincing happy ending for modern audiences when the husband is a reformed murderer who started off the marriage by planning to kill his wife. The two books try different solutions to the problem. They ultimately have little in common besides their inspiration, although as you'd expect, both take from the original legend an emphasis on the influence of stories; both Shahrazads explicitly set out to educate their husbands through fiction.
See [b:Shadow Spinner|238460|Shadow Spinner|Susan Fletcher|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347358771s/238460.jpg|1481934] for the other half of the review. In The Storyteller's Daughter,
Dokey has Shahrazad be the first woman Shahrayar marries, which means of course that he doesn't kill anyone. This ought to make him easier to sympathize with, but it deprives the story of nearly all its power instead. The fact that he just threatens
to kill her isn't especially endearing. Shahrazad and Shahrayar are married only a week or so, and Shahrazad has to prove her love through saving Shahrayar's life rather than by telling stories for three years. Shahrayar finds out that Shahrazad orchestrated the tale-telling and throws a temper tantrum because she betrayed his trust by trying to save her own life. Earlier, he's appalled that people have gathered in his courtyard the day after his wedding to witness Shahrazad's execution. He feels this displays an uncalled-for ghoulishness.
More than anything else, Shahrayar reminded me of all those horrible mid-eighties romance novels where the hero spends the entire book being an absolute shit to the heroine, but she forgives him because his first wife cheated on him with his best friend and broke his heart, so of course he could never trust another woman, ever, and then when he does, it means more
and also he apologizes very prettily.
Often, if the book was written by Elizabeth Lowell, with choked and manly tears.
Dokey eventually has Shahrayar deposed and imprisoned so his people can miss him when his successor's a horrible tyrant. Myself, I would have gone with the horrible tyrant who didn't have the rapist/serial killer tendencies.
Why, yes, I have spoiled the ending for you. I cannot bring myself to feel sorry about this.
Oh, the other big change Dokey makes is to have Shahrazad be blind, so there can be a touching scene where she recognizes Shahrayar by her "heart" instead of by sight. It also does allow for a neat bit of magic, where Shahrazad finds her stories in pieces of cloth.
In contrast to the Fletcher, there's so little sense of place that it took an effort for me to visual Arabian palaces instead of European forts. The writing is decent on a sentence-by-sentence level, but repetitive in a way that's probably supposed to represent the ticks of oral storytelling but instead just annoys.
I have another fairy tale novelization by Dokey, which I suppose I'll read sometime, since it's possible that the flaws in this one came from problems adapting the particular legend; but I can't say I'd buy another of her books. In contrast, I'm very much looking forward to finding Fletcher's back list.
(* And it suddenly occurs to me that we discuss Buffy
in incorrect and unhelpful terms when we talk of "redemption"; redemption comes from the outside and can be a single act, and Buffy's
more concerned with rehabilitation, which is tougher and not nearly as sexy.)