"I had some things to contemplate" is my new favorite excuse for being late. Socrates, you don't mind me quoting you on that, do you?
Writer/Artist: Han SeungHee and Jeon JinSeok
Translation: HyeYoung Im
Adaptation: J. Torres
What They Say
Sultan Shahryar and Sehara escape from the palace! On the road, they meet two other runaways - a girl named Aisha and her tutor Alex. Aisha and Alex are in love, but her parents object to their union. When Aisha's father sends some men to capture them, the Sultan has to decide whether to help them or turn them in...
This volume finds Sultan Shahryar on a furtive jaunt outside the palace, accompanied by only his bard and bodyguard. After enjoying a bit of sport, they lodge at a nearby town where Shahryar, in a surprising turn as perceptive ruler, wants to hear what his people are really saying about the state of affairs. Naturally, what they have to say isn't all that great. Surprisingly though, Shahryar doesn't get too riled up over the criticisms of the public, knowing full well they aren't misplaced - a sure sign that Sehara has had a positive affect on him. But the real adventure comes when they find themselves caught up in the plight of Alex and Aisha, a couple on their way to Rome to elope. The whole affair is a bit of a caper, but there is a lesson to be learned and Sehara is determined to make Shahryar see it.
Between Shahryar's gallivanting and Sehara getting mixed up with the runaway couple, the in-story tale comes late to the volume and is not entirely contained within. No doubt it continues into something more serious next time, but for now we are given a fanciful yarn of love in ancient Greece; a tale of Alcibiades, the most beautiful boy in Athens, who attempts to woo Socrates to his bed. It's a lighthearted romp, with easily-imaginable effects on the Sultan.
After the intensity and despair of the previous volume, the lighter theme offered here is a welcome diversion. This is in part thanks to a change of scene and sub-story plots, but it's also the result of a number of humorous interludes – ones only made possible by Sehara's ongoing efforts to tame the Sultan's violent behavior. It's obvious there is a weight being lifted and we're seeing a glimpse of the Shahryar that may once have been, back before he was betrayed by his loved ones. He's in many ways childlike – rambunctious, stubborn, and free-spirited – but he has a surprisingly good head on his shoulders when the time calls. His sense of self is awakening again, yet is humbled immediately by Sehara's ministrations. With this an equality is able to grow between them; Shahryar openly values Sehara, who, in turn, is now able to stand against his master with little fear for his life. That their friendship sometimes now resembles a power struggle (and sometimes that of bickering children!) proves just how far both have come since their story began.
One Thousand and One Nights continues to be one of the more uniquely-styled reads out there. Themes of love (with happier endings than we've come to expect) take center stage in this volume, giving us a respite from the more serious happenings in the palace of Baghdad and better acquaint us with a side of the Sultan we'd scarcely believe existed until now – his good one. As their story surges forward and Shahryar and Sehara grow as characters, so, too, do the complexities of their relationship, making this both an entertaining and compelling read.