Writer/Artist:Han SeungHee / Jeon JinSeok
Translated by:HyeYoung Im
Adapted by:J. Torres
What They Say
Sehara meets Sultan Shazaman and discovers that his brother's distrust of women not only comes from Fatima's betrayal but also his mother's traumatic death. And while Sehara is away, Shahryar continues to play his dangerous game with another girl. Will Sehara's next night story be enough to stop the sultan's wicked ways?
It's been a long couple of years since we last saw a volume from this series, but if you've not read the previous three released by Ice Kunion, or if you haven't been re-reading and pining over them (as you should have been) here's a quick primer:
The setting is Baghdad of old. The young Sultan Shahryar, betrayed by his queen Fatima, has taken to bedding and beheading girls from his harem every day in hateful revenge. Enter Sehara, a young man who impersonates his sister when she's called for the harem, hoping to spare her life. It should have been a death sentence for Sehara, but he reaches out to Shahryar through a story, and by morning his life is spared and the two form a strange but tense attachment. Sehara continues telling stories each night in his new position as Royal Bard to rehabilitate Shahryar and discover what led the sultan to such tyrannical ways. To complicate matters, there are usurpers in the palace court, Sehara's old friend Ali is the leader the underground rebel forces, and Sehara sees Fatima in Shahryar's brother's court. Whew, ready now?
While in Sultan Shazaman's court, Sehara learns Shahryar's troubles with women go further back than his cheating wife. His tragic past also includes the death of his mother – who'd been unfaithful and was summarily killed in front of him as a child. Already burdened by her intended abandonment and guilt over her death, Shahryar's father, cold and cruel, instilled a belief that was to bias his understanding of love from that day forward. When he returns home, Sehara learns that Shahryar attacked a woman in a drunken rage, and that he must make good on his claim to heal the sultan of the wounds that ail him.
This night's story is a well known one across many cultures – the tale of the angel and woodsman, or, the hagoromo story. (It's also known as the swan maiden's tale, wherein a bird is substituted for the angel, but to the same end result.) For the unfamiliar, it goes a little something like this: an angel descends from Heaven to bathe in a river. A passing woodsman steals her robe (the hagoromo) so that she may not return home and forces her to become his wife and bear his children. The angel loves her children but hates her husband and tries many times to flee. The husband, always jealous and over-protective, becomes increasingly violent as their relationship breaks down. It's a tragic story of loss and abandonment, though I'll leave the exact details of this version to your reading pleasure. Even moreso than the previous nightly tales, this one deeply affects Shahryar – but Sehara is determined to cleanse the wounds in his friend's heart.
What I love about this series is that the stories Sehara tells are not restricted to the Asian experience; they're recognizable across cultures and history. They are melancholy but meaningful, and are as much a treat of these volumes as the main story is. The plot of the main story builds slowly but determinedly, always furthered along and well matched by the nightly tales.
A great big thank you goes out to Yen Press for rescuing this Ice Kunion gem. This is great multi-tiered story telling coupled with lovely artwork and I'm thrilled to see it continued. For those who find it important, this book looks just as it did before. The credits list the same translator and adaptor, so continuity has been preserved, at least for this volume anyway. The print job is remarkably similar, SFX are subtitled in complimenting fonts, and even the color plate has been included.