As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

May 18, 2011

SHADOW SPINNER by Susan Fletcher, 1999

Shadow Spinner (A Jean Karl Book)Every night, Shahrazad begins a story. And every morning, the Sultan lets her live another day -- providing the story is interesting enough to capture his attention. After almost one thousand nights, Shahrazad is running out of tales. And that is how Marjan's story begins.... It falls to Marjan to help Shahrazad find new stories -- ones the Sultan has never heard before. To do that, the girl is forced to undertake a dangerous and forbidden mission: sneak from the harem and travel the city, pulling tales from strangers and bringing them back to Shahrazad. (Amazon)

Reviewed by Megan Hutchins

Anyone familiar with Arabian Nights knows it's a collection of the stories the fabled Shahrazad told the Sultan. After his favorite wife cheated on him, the Sultan slaughtered his whole harem, then got in the habit of marrying a girl one night and executing her in the morning. Shahrazad, the brave vizier's daughter, volunteered to marry him to try and save other girls. That first night, Shahrazad began telling a story...then stopped at the most dramatic part. The Sultan lets her live, day after day, to hear the end of the stories. For nearly three years, Shahrazad's avoided execution and kept the women of the city safe.

Enter Marjan, a cripple-footed girl. When she goes with her aunt to sell trinkets at the harem, she only tells a story to amuse the children, but she's dragged into something larger: Shahrazad's running out of stories, and without Marjan's help to get more, she'll die and the city will return to its nightmare.

Despite the grisly nature of Shahrazad's story, this book isn't graphic. Marjan has Arabian Nights-like adventures as she sneaks out of and around the harem, trying to help Shahrazad. The book examines some hard things -- how Marjan got her lame foot, how the Sultan isn't all evil -- while still keeping an optimistic tone. Seeing Shahrazad's optimism and cleverness come alive through Marjan's eyes is highly rewarding. Seeing Marjan use her own cleverness to save Shahrazad once and for all is something you have to read for yourself.

Market: Young Adult Fiction
Language: None
Sensuality: None/Mild (There's mention of women trying to stay beautiful, and Marjan can't fathom how Shahrazad can stand being married to a tyrant)
Violence: Mild (there is mention of many deaths, but they're discussed as part of the past)
Mature Themes: Suicide, death, disability

Book formats:

To learn more about the author, visit: Susan Fletcher


Amoniel said...

Kinda like a fairytale re-telling.

Anonymous said...

I love the Arabian Nights! I can tell I'd really like this book. I'll add it to my To Read list. Thanks for the great review, Megan!