“The worst thing wasn’t that his charade was potentially dangerous for me. It was that he’d given me hope. Hope that I’d found someone like me, someone who yearned for a better life and could build that life with me.”
The Disney animated version of Aladdin was probably one of my most watched movies growing up. I knew all the words to every song, re-enacted scenes with stuffed animals and Barbies, and I was constantly begging my mom to put my hair in a “Jasmine braid”. Over the years I’ve seen many allusions to the story, but I’ve never read an actual re-telling. Thus, I was excited to give The Cahraman Trilogy by Lucy Tempest a try! (It’s actually the first three books in her Fairytales of Folkshore series, which includes re-tellings of Beauty & the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, & Snow White amongst others.)
As this is a gender-bent interpretation of Aladdin, our main character is Adelaide, a young thief abandoned by her mother in early childhood. She’s fiercely independent and resilient, as seen in how she handles the situations thrown her way throughout the books. Her life is completely turned upside down when she is kidnapped and blackmailed into agreeing to steal a lamp hidden somewhere in the palace of a country she never knew existed. And her way in? Participating in a competition to win the Prince’s hand in marriage and become the Queen of Cahraman. (If you’re thinking that this sounds like the Selection series by Kiera Cass, you’re right on the money. The second book in the series, which I’ll focus the remainder of my review on, has especially got a lot of similar vibes!)
So, insert my SPOILER WARNING here if you’d haven’t read the first book in the series yet!
Throughout the first book, Adelaide’s growing affection for the supposed servant/thief that she meets is obvious. But the revelation that Cyrus is in fact the Prince she is competing for sets the entire tone for the second installation of the series. She spends a lot of internal dialogue wrestling with her perceptions of him as a servant and comparing that to her new perceptions of him as a prince. It doesn’t help that she’s wrestling with her own guilt for her deception (as he believes she is Lady Ada, daughter of an obscure noble family). I really appreciated the author’s struggle to resolve these difficult issues, as so often fairytales gloss over the problems created by the confusion/deceptions involved in the initial meeting between love interests.
I also fell in love with Prince Cyrus in this book! He is so relatable as he desperately tries to fight for his rights to make his own decisions and, most importantly, his choice of bride. The tests that he sets up throughout the first book reveal him to be far more concerned about the internal qualities of his bride, and we see that continue to be reflected as the finalists in the competition move through this book as well. His love for Adelaide is so precious, and the struggles they go through just broke my heart.
The only caveat I might add is that sometimes the story seemed to get more focused on the growing relationship between Cyrus and Ada, and less on the search for the lamp…which is the whole reason she’s in this situation to begin with. At times I struggled to see how this was still an Aladdin story as opposed to a clean romance set in a Persia inspired world. But there were definitely still enough nods to the original story that it kept me intrigued; and overall I really enjoyed both the plot and the characters.
If you’re looking for a clean romance or a unique fairytale re-telling with an Arabian spin, I’d definitely recommend checking out Prince of Cahraman; and I give it 5 stars!
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