This book is like all of my guiltiest pleasures in one book. Well, my adoration of the story of A Thousand Nights isn't guilty, but man if I wasn't feeling like a swooning fool by the last several chapters of a book, my pants are ablaze with the fire of a billion lies. The adaptation of the stories that Shazi tells isn't particularly creative, and I was somewhat hesitant by the premise that the "villain isn't what he seems, he's angsty and things" but there's a way to do it really well, and I feel like this book did that. By the time he actually admits it, the reader has more or less figured it out, but it doesn't feel particularly cheap, and the importance of him being able to tell Shazi this is the focal point to the scene than anything else. It was vital to have the scene where Shazi finds his apologies - though we get hints of his regret, it's the first time he expresses it, and it's an eye-opening scene for both Shazi and the reader. Admittedly, the book rushes to a close after that, particularly because that scene seems to reaffirm her determination to kill him, and then we get the plot reveal and then all the rest of it happens, but if there was a scene that cemented a character, it was that one. Not to mention that it's not entirely clear why Khalid can't tell his people about the curse. Is it because he fears it'll incite riots and the mass slaughtering of women? Who knows - it's not explained at all.
But above all, Shazi is such an interesting character. Though the niggling part of my brain is sort of eye-rolly at all manners of teenage-girls-who-are-beautiful-but-are-unaware-of-how-beautiful, Shazi is rounded, with a determined purpose that drives her through the novel. I wish there were more scenes to tie her to the best friend she discusses, as we're mostly subject to her thinking about her revenge in the name of Shiva as opposed to any actual scenes that indicate their friendship.
In a SJW way, as I'm tied to it - the lack of queer representation didn't bother me in the sense that it starts as Shazi's revenge plot, but mentions of it would have been nice. In contrast to some other YA books I've read recently that are constantly 100% on and on about how it's assumed that men do men things like stare at women doing women things, at the very least in this book it's not harped on enough for it to be wallbanging. It's always great to have female characters that are depicted as being capable of defending themselves, both verbally and physically.
I was incredibly relieved to find out that this wasn't the final book, as when I got to the end I was wondering if I skipped a scene and it was going to end mysteriously and enigmatically and I was going to punch someone.