Author: Jeon JinSeok
Manhwa-ga: Han SeungHee
Publisher: Del Rey
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: August 2009
Synopsis: “Sehara’s sudden departure leaves the other inhabitants of the palace dumbfounded. Willing himself out of shock, Sultan Shahryar takes matters into his own hands and goes on a journey of his own, only to end up face-to-face with the enemy… and a ghost from the past!”
After Sehara leaves willingly with the invading commander, Sultan Shahryar brashly leaves his palace to attack the political side of things head on. But before that, he must confront his own demons in the form of the woman who was responsible for them: his believed-to-be-deceased wife, Fatima.
The book immediately opens up to the aftermath of the previous book’s ending. In a short but potent scene, Sehara leaves the palace and Shahryar is powerless to stop him. Determined to not let something else slip beyond his control, Shahryar travels to the home of his brother where he’s taken prisoner for crimes, not all of which unfounded by any means. Though Shahryar is now on a hunt to find Sehara, and on the forefront of a war that is already spilling over into his lands, the bulk of this volume focuses on considerably less present-day occurrences and instead fills in a gap of time never fully explained since the beginning of the series.
Against my stubbornness, I did find myself feeling sorry for Fatima as the story weaves around her first joining the previous Sultan’s harem. Her life was anything but pleasant and says a lot for her strength that she copes as well as does. In the hopes of avenging her family, she conspires with the Sultan’s son, Shazaman, (Shahryar’s younger brother) to kill the King. In turn she falls in love with Shazaman but then becomes engaged to Shahryar. Seeing Shahryar genuinely happy to be with her, and before his darker days at that, is short-lived but nice, and despite knowing the murderous path Fatima’s eventual betrayal will take him, it’s near impossible not to feel bad for the young man when his attachment to Fatima is entirely one-sided.
While I was interested to finally learn the story of Fatima from her perspective, I was none the less left considerably less entertained than when Sehara and the Sultan share page time or enjoy each others’ company over a moral-rich story. Because of this I found volume seven to be one of the weaker in the series, taking too long a break in a series that has remained notably consistent in its focus since the beginning. Still, if there’s one thing volume eight does, it ensures that the back-story exposition is out of the way and the next volume can continue from the last riveting present-day predicaments that it’s given readers a glimpse of.