Shadow Spinner is a fun 'middle grader' book set in Ancient Persia as a new twist on the story of 1001 Arabian Nights. In the original story of 1001 Arabian Nights, Shaharazad is the Sultan's wife who is keeping herself alive by telling the Sultan a story every night and ending each night without finishing the story so that the Sultan's curiosity will be aroused and he will keep her alive another day to finish the story.
In this retelling, we visit the world of Sultans, harems, palaces and slaves as seen through the eyes of Marjan, a crippled young girl (pre/early teens?). Marjan is visiting the palace one day to sell wares and while there she starts to tell a story to some of the children. Sharazad has been running out of new stories to tell the Sultan so upon hearing Marjan's storytelling, she pulls Marjan into the harem to help come up with stories.
The plot takes a few twists and turns as the Sultan recognizes Marjan's story and wants to hear the rest of it but Marjan doesn't know the second part of the story. There's a lot of fun intrigue and revelation as Marjan works with Shaharazad to find the ending to the story and to unravel a few mysteries along the way.
The format and tone of this book were a lot of fun. Each chapter begins with a short blurb labeled "Lessons for Life and Storytelling." Many of these introductory segments are profoundly thought provoking. They act as a kind of philosophical meditation on life and the impact and importance that stories can have on life.
For a fairly short and simple book, I was pleasantly surprised at the fun developments of interesting characters and intriguing plot. There were some points that were predictable but others that were uniquely unexpected. I haven't read the original 1001 Arabian Nights so I can't speak directly as to how it compares. It does evoke at least a sense of Ancient Persia and I had fun getting into the layers of myth and storytelling that Shaharazad (and others) used to present their messages.
4 out of 5
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