When, on the day of her age-coming, the princess opens a mysterious bronze bottle--a gift from her grandmother--she has no idea that she is about to unleash a power older than the world itself. Worse, she is not prepared for the bearer of this power to be a handsome man whose intense gray eyes pierce her very soul. Hasan, her new slave, is immeasurably wiser and stronger than anyone she has ever heard of, and he is now hers to command--if she can handle him, that is.
Firstly, I read this book about, hmm 8 years ago originally when it came out in hardcover from Herodias (back in 2000). This was a little updated--new pages added, some small changes to freshen the book up, but otherwise remains largely the same. So this is more a review of how I felt 10 years (when I was 19) ago vs. how I felt on my re-read (at 29).
Interestingly I found myself less inclined to like the Princess (who's name is not revealed until the end...unless you read the synopsis for book 2 The Goddess of Dance) than when I was younger. I think some of it had to do with the fact she is very naive and her choice in the end felt more selfish. She didn't want to do what her father said so she made it happen so she could have what she wanted. This was an ongoing theme throughout the novel after she awakens Hasan.
She lacked the ability to understand or foresee consequences to her actions or requests. Hasan, who at first is mindful of such things, becomes enthralled by her boundless joy and curiosity so he allows a lot to happen that perhaps shouldn't.
This isn't a fast paced or action filled novel. We follow the Princess as she grows from a young girl (of 12) to a young woman of 17, sometimes spending time in the past with Hasan as he remembers what drove him to become a djinn in the first place. He sees so much of himself in the Princess that he can't help thinking of the parallels. We see things also from the Princess' mother and briefly from the Princess' childhood companion Alamid. Its all told in third person, but we get insights into the other characters.
As an adult I feel more keenly for the Princess' mother--a high born lady who knows that once her daughter, who's been raised as a boy moreso than as a girl, marries she will lose her. Her husband, who's family is cursed to be unable to have sons who survive (mostly, certain circumstances must occur for it to happen and its a slim chance) has scores of concubines, which she doesn't mind, but her fear is that her daughter will be replaced and then where will she be? The sultan favors the Princess as his heir, raised her as if she was a son, but always with the silent 'If my daughter is so great as a woman, just imagine if I had a son!'
With an Arabian Nights feel to it, this fantasy of the desert is so different an intriguing. Religion is largely absent, though ancient Cults of worship and Goddesses are mentioned. Perhaps because this was a re-read, so I knew where it was all going, I wasn't feeling the same need to finish this quickly. I took a more leisurely read of the book, soaking in the atmosphere that Kashina presents, imagining the world and the people with their delicious foods and scents.
I remember desperately seeking info for the second book, which was released last year (and a third is due). I don't feel that same desperation right now, but I did download it immediately after finishing The Princess of Dhagabad, so I know its waiting for me to call upon it just as the Princess calls upon Hasan.