I have a mini review out at PCS today for volume seven of manhwa series One Thousand and One Nights. This is such a beautiful and well-crafted series, and I could easily have written a full-length review of this volume so I will add some things here that I did not have room to say in my mini. Bonus: I get to say them here with wholly unprofessional abandon. :)
Even if he had not written these notes, however, his point is made clearly through his storytelling, and this is one of the things I love most about fiction. The story-within-a-story in this volume speeds ahead to present day, where an American soldier is trapped in the desert with a young Iraqi boy who has been manipulated into becoming a suicide bomber by a man who promises to pay for much-needed medical treatment for the boy’s sister after he is gone. There are a few clumsy bits, mainly due to the story’s nebulous timeline, but overall the author’s ideas are introduced very well and feel very much in place with the rest of the series.
All of that aside, however, the real draw of this series is the romance. Perhaps it seems odd for me to call it that when the series hasn’t entirely acknowledged it, but man I haven’t read anything so honestly romantic in quite some time.
“A Bard from the west once told me the story of King Arthur and his knights,” says Sehara to the English king. “He also told me that you are a wise and kind king who is loved by his people. Some say you are King Arthur, returned from Avalon.” “I love the people of England,” says the king. To which Sehara replies, “And I love the Sultan of Baghdad.”
Sehara’s quiet devotion, Shahryar’s intense fire, the painfully dramatic ending of this volume which I will not give away–oh, it is almost more romance than I can bear, though I’d fight anyone who tried to take it away from me. This is the kind of story that I read for in the first place, and it is a pleasure to be reminded of it once again. I have no idea how this story is going to end, and more and more it seems nearly impossible to avoid real tragedy. For a character with as much blood on his hands as Shahyrar has, can there be a happy ending? Perhaps, but it is tough to write that ending without the happiness feeling unearned. I guess we shall see. I have a lot of faith in these storytellers, and they have yet to let me down in any significant way.
There are other series I’m reading now that I could say are better comics, and certainly some I love more if I was pressed to choose. But there is something truly special about this series–a timeless, romantic, otherworldly quality that is different than anything else I’m reading and satisfying in a way that is truly all its own. Now I endure the long wait until August when Yen Press will release volume eight.