Although Khalid is the Caliph of Khorasan (a Caliph is a title of an emperor in this world to my knowledge), he is not loved by his city, because every day he takes from the city a new girl to be wed to and then she is killed the next morning. It is surprising then, when a girl volunteers to be wed to him. Her name is Shahrzhad, and although she won't reveal her reasoning to the Caliph, she has volunteered so that she can get close to him and kill him to avenge her friend Shiva who he killed not long ago after taking her as one of his brides.
Shahrzhad has done this without telling her family and friends other than her father Jahandar. He comes to see her while she's being prepared to wed the Caliph and offers her a rose from their garden. He has magic in his heart but is not able to use it very well and tries to make it bloom for her but it withers quickly and dies before their eyes. He is disappointed with himself that he can't even do this simple thing for his daughter that he's saying goodbye to, but she tells him that it was beautiful and she will never forget the way it looked at full bloom for that moment. She asks him to keep his promise and take her sister Irsa to her lover Tariq's house and he tells her he will.
The next chapter begins with Tariq's point of view. He and his best friend Rahim are hunting with Tariq's falcon Zoraya in the desert. When they return home, Tariq's father, the emir of their city (I think an emir is like a mayor) calls Tariq to his tent to tell him that Shazi (Shahrzhad) has sent a letter to them from Rey, and the letter reveals to them what she has decided to do to avenge Shiva, who was Tariq's cousin and Shahrzhad's best friend. Tariq goes against his father's advice of telling him he can't do anything now and leaves with Rahim to try to rescue her somehow.
We then switch POV to Jahandar and Irsa who are on their way to Tariq's family's house. Jahandar stops by the old library in the city to retrieve a book from inside, and although Irsa doesn't understand why they are doing it at the time, it turns out the book is full of magic spells and instructions which will help Jahandar become more powerful as he hopes he can rescue his daughter too and not leave it all up to Tariq.
Back at the palace, Khalid comes to Shahrzhad (I am going to call her Shazi from now on) and they are intimate (not by Shazi's choice of course, but she doesn't fight him because she has a plan to live through the night and be the first of his brides to see the sunrise). She wagers a bet with the Caliph when they are done. He wants to know why she volunteered and she says she will tell him if he lets her tell him a story first. He agrees, and she tells him the story of Agib.
Agib was a talented thief who became too cocky in his ability and was eventually caught stealing from the emir and chased through Baghdad. In a panic, he boarded a small ship and asked if they needed hired help and luckily they did. They took him aboard and he was able to escape the city that way.
A storm came and the captain of the ship was killed. The crew began looking for land as they were now hopelessly lost at sea and they finally see an island in the distance: the Mountain of Adamant. It is rumored to have such high iron content that when ships get near it the very nails inside the ship are pulled from the hull like a magnet and the ship will sink before it ever reaches shore.
Desperate, the crew see no choice but to go there. The rumors are true though and the ship begins to sink while still far from the island. As it splinters apart, Agib grabs a nearby metal pot and hangs onto the floating mast to survive. The metal in the pot eventually pulls him to shore and he finds an old chalice nearby. It is marred with age and rust and he swipes his sleeve across it to clear it and a genie comes out.
At this point, Shazi stops the story as the dawn has come, and when Khalid tells her to continue, she says that she cannot today as the tale has just begun, but that if he will let her live for one more day she will finish it. Khalid is too intrigued to refuse and allows her to live that day. When he leaves she breaks down in tears for she was unsure if her plan would work and feared he would kill her after that morning.
She awakens later to find a handmaiden in her room that has been assigned to her by the name of Despina. Despina and Shazi eventually end up becoming very good friends as they are both outspoken and not afraid to say exactly what they feel. This first time they meet, Despina tells her that she's rooting for her (to survive, not kill Khalid. She has no idea that Shazi is there to kill him) and that Shazi has caused quite a stir within the palace.
Despina tells her that she is allowed to roam the palace as long as the Rajput is with her (the best fighter in Khalid's guard who has been assigned to guard Shazi). When she goes to the palace guard training grounds she meets Jalal and she asks him to train her to shoot a bow and says that since this is her last day she feels like she should learn something useful.
She is really a talented archer as Tariq taught her a long time ago, but she's faking so that hopefully she can talk to Jalal longer and find out a weakness about Khalid that she can use to stay alive longer.
She doesn't get much information but while distracted she accidentally nocks the arrow with much more precision than a beginner should have. Jalal laughs and tells her that he has earned the right to ask a favor as his silence comes with a price. He tells her that Khalid is not his friend anymore but not his enemy either, and that he is tired of the broken thing Khalid has become and he wants her to fix it and thinks she can.
That night, Khalid again comes to her room and Shazi begins the story of Agib again...The genie comes out of the chalice and tells Agib that he is permitted three questions as he is the all knowing genie of the bronze chalice. Agib accidentally asks him a question straight away as he is in shock and asks the genie what kind of questions he can answer. The genie tells him that he has the answer to ANY question. Agib vows not to be so stupid again and uses his second question wisely.
He asks the genie how to get off the island and reach his homeland without any further harm befalling him. The genie tells him there is a boat at the top of Mount Adamant that can get him there after twenty days of sailing.
When they are out to sea the boat begins to sink and Agib is furious as he thinks the genie lied in saying that no harm would befall him when sailing home, but a larger ship appears and takes Agib aboard. It is none other than the emir's ship who he had stolen from before, but after being gone so long the emir does not recognize him so he plays dumb.
The two strike up a conversation and the emir tells him that they were looking for an island rumored to hold a chalice with a genie and that he wants it because his most prized possession, a ring given to him by his late wife, was stolen in the market a while ago and he needs the genie to find out where it is. Agib of course was the thief but he had dropped the ring in a panic while fleeing and has no idea where it is now.
He keeps silent and they sail for many months looking for the island, with Agib becoming a good sailor and also becoming great friends with the emir. The emir gets sick and is dying, so upon reaching the shores of home again Agib decides to use his last wish to find the ring. The genie tells him a mercenary has it and Agib seeks him out.
A huge fight ensues but Agib manages to get the ring and brings it back to the emir and finally tells him the truth, that he was the thief. The emir tells him he's known all along but tells Agib that he must promise to never steal again and instead work to better himself and humanity. Agib with tears in his eyes tells him he will, and upon the emir's death Agib finds out that the emir willed his entire estate to him as if he were his own son. Agib finds a wife and a great wedding takes place. At the wedding is a magician attending, but he is not there for the wedding, he is looking for a boy named Aladdin.
Khalid asks if this is a new story and she tells him it's not, it's a continuation of the same story. The general comes to the room and knocks as it's dawn and Shazi once again begins to panic. Khalid does nothing to prevent the general and his men from starting to take her but then he pauses and tells the general that he would like to introduce him to his Mountain of Adamant, his queen, as he's inexplicably drawn to her in ways that even he doesn't understand yet, but he needs time to figure his feelings out and that she is not to be taken.
Tariq and Rahim have arrived at Tariq's uncle's house (Shiva's father, Reza), and Tariq begs him to help them rage a war against the Caliph and kill him for the wrong he's done. Reza agrees and tells Tariq that he knows of wandering mercenary bands near them and that if they can get them to join their cause they may just be able to enter the city and overthrow the palace. Tariq goes to find them to try to convince them to join.
Shazi goes with Despina the next day to sneak into the guard tournament. There she sees Khalid fight and realizes it is no ordinary man that she is dealing with but an excellent fighter who is second only to the Rajput. Although she doesn't want to admit it, after their conversations over the past few evenings she has begun to have feelings for the Caliph as well and is unsure of where to go from here.
She doesn't have to wonder long as the next morning she is yanked from her bed and dragged to the courtyard where she is to be hung. While dangling from the rope and trying to hold onto life she is cut down by Khalid as he has come to his senses and saved her after all.
Khalid comes to her room and begs forgiveness. She understandably doesn't trust him now, and he tells her that although he's leaving for a meeting in another country with their leaders, she has nothing to fear as he has ordered no harm befall her while he's gone. She almost believes him until she starts to have her breakfast one morning and realizes her tea smells funny. She tells Despina she thinks there's poison in it and it turns out there is.
Now Shazi doesn't trust Despina either as she is the one who always brings Shazi's meals (it's really the general who tried to poison her as he doesn't trust her and he knows of the curse and thinks they have to fulfill the prophecy and she must die, but she doesn't know that yet).
Jalal comes and tells her a visitor is at the palace and has requested to meet the queen. It is Khalid's tutor from years ago, a scholar they call Musa-effendi. Musa tells Shazi the story of how Khalid was raised. When his mother, Laila, was taken by the former Caliph to be his second wife, she had hope for her future and Musa came with her at her family's request as they were friends. The Caliph however, loved his first wife very much and pushed away Laila as she was only there due to the country's need for another queen. When Khalid was born, Musa thought things would be better, but the Caliph eventually found out that the queen was having an affair with a guard and slit Khalid's mother's throat right in front of him. Musa was kicked out of the palace, and from that day on Khalid was on his own until his father's death when he was 14, and then Khalid was thrown into being a ruler when he had never even been taught how to be one by his father.
Before Musa leaves, he gives Shazi a gift of a rolled carpet and tells her that he senses the magic in her and asks if her family has magic in it. She tells him of her father's abilities but that he can't control them very well so he doesn't use them much, and Musa tells her that he knows the secrets of magic and that even though she doesn't know how to do anything right now, if she ever wants to harness her magic she should look him up and he will help her. He leaves by saying that she should take good care of the carpet as it's special and when she's lost it will help her find her way. Later on, she finally unrolls it and it curls up around her touch. Despina touches it and nothing happens. Anything else about the rug isn't mentioned in this book, but I'm sure it will come up in the second novel.
When Khalid returns, Shazi asks that he go into the city with her like Aladdin did with the princess in their story, as regular citizens not of royalty. He agrees, and they have a great time until a drunken man keeps trying to get Shazi to go with him and tells her that he could fulfill her dreams if she'll let him. He eventually finds them again at the little outdoor cafe they are dining at and he tries to drag her away from Khalid forcefully, not knowing who they actually are. A fight ensues with the man and his friends and Shazi bargains with a boy for his bow and arrows. She shoots the man who has a knife now directly through the wrist and makes him drop the knife. The man and his friends retreat and Khalid knows now what an excellent shot she actually is. She keeps telling herself to kill him, to do it now while she has a weapon and no one is around, but when he comes to her and kisses her and tells her that she surprises him more and more everyday and that she has become everything to him, she drops all pretenses of her revenge and kisses him back.
A few days later Despina is very sick and Shazi tries to take care of her and demands that Despina tell her what's wrong as Despina says she doesn't want to go to the palace doctor and already knows what's wrong. Despina is pregnant, and reveals that Jalal is the father but that he doesn't know yet. Shazi asks why she hasn't told him, and Despina reveals that she's scared that maybe he doesn't love her, and that he is of the royal guard and is expected to marry better than a handmaiden. It's shown later on though that kind Jalal loves her very much and doesn't care about marrying into other royalty, but at this time Despina doesn't know that.
Eventually, a feast is going to be held where Shazi is introduced to the city as his queen, and Khalid tells her that his uncle, the Sultan to the country he goes to visit sometimes, will be coming.
It is no secret that Khalid's uncle doesn't like him and that he questions Khalid's validity as the true successor to the former Caliph of Khorasan due to Khalid's mother's affair. That is why Khalid visits them occassionally, to keep tabs on his uncle, because although his force isn't strong enough yet to try to take down Khorasan and Khalid, Khalid has no doubt that someday he will try and is using the old adage of keep your enemies close.
At the feast, Shazi meets Salim (the uncle Sultan) and immediately hates him, for he constantly taunts Khalid with veiled threats. She also meets his daughter, Yasmine, who is the most beautiful girl Shazi has ever seen. She is surprised when Yasmine pulls her aside and confesses her love for Khalid and tells Shazi that she had better treat him well, for if he doesn't want Yasmine, she at least wants him to be happy with someone he does love.
Shazi soon finds out that Tariq is at the feast in his father's stead, as all the emir's have been invited. When Tariq comes to her room secretly later on and asks if she has a plan for taking out the Caliph, he begins to realize that Shazi may be falling in love with Khalid and he decides he needs to get her away from this place as soon as possible as he's sure she's been brainwashed here. When he kisses her before sneaking back out, she kisses him back as she does still love him also, but she knows that she somehow must tell Tariq and all of her family soon that she has failed them and fallen in love with the man she is supposed to kill.
Khalid has become wary of Tariq as he sees how he gravitates toward Shazi, and Khalid tells Jalal and the general to find out everything they can of Tariq and his family.
Tariq has managed to get the mercenary leader, Omar, to join their cause, and he goes back to him and his uncle with what he has found out after the feast. He doesn't reveal that Shazi is in love with Khalid, but just tells them that they need to get her out of there soon and blames it on jealousy, saying that he has seen how much Khalid loves her. Jahandar shows back up and asks Tariq to allow him to help. Tariq knows Jahandar is a weak man but out of pity tells him he will allow him to help them when the time comes.
Shazi awakes in the night and is attacked by men in black cloaks, the Fida'i, trained assassins who try to kidnap her. She fights back along with Khalid and the Rajput and they manage to defeat them. Khalid takes her to his room and bandages her wounds. They start to become intimate when a guard knocks on the door and tells Khalid that the general needs him as they've figured out how the assassins gained entry into the palace. Khalid asks her to stay in his room and he will be back.
While he's gone she can't help but snoop, wanting to know still after all this time what it is that made him kill the other girls since she knows there's a reason for it, as Khalid is not just a monster like she first thought. In one of his cabinets she finds dozens of letters to the families of the girls; his apology letters telling them how sorry he was for their loss. She knows they were never meant to be seen by anyone but Khalid, but now that she's seen them her heart breaks, both for herself and Khalid. Herself because even after knowing it was true, until this moment she wanted the killings to really just be rumors so that she wouldn't know she was in love with a killer, and Khalid because she knows there's something he's not telling her, but the grief in the letters shows her enough to know he didn't kill willingly.
When Khalid returns he lies down with her as she's asleep on the bed and she wakes up and tries to talk to him, but he's acting weird and soon he's sitting on the edge of the bed doubled over in pain. Shazi calls for the general and he rushes in with the palace magician who creates an aura around Khalid's head that eases the pain for a while. Khalid finally tells Shazi the whole truth.
When he became Caliph, there was pressure from Salim for him to marry Yasmine and join their families together. Khalid wanted to marry for love and not be forced into a marriage, so he found a girl in the city who intrigued him by the name of Ava and married her. She was smart and from a good family, but he realized he wasn't in love with her too late. He still wanted to make her happy, but he could tell that she was devastated and she ended up killing herself in her room.
After her death, Khalid received an invitation to her father's home and wrapped in guilt he went to meet with him, not knowing what the man wanted but knowing that he needed to try to console Ava's family. When Ava's father came to him, he cursed Khalid with the curse aforementioned at the first of the summary. Khalid tried to resist the curse at first, but all of Khorasan began drying up with no rain, there were diseases rampant, and a lot of people in the city were dying, so he realized he didn't have a choice. He tells her that no matter what happens now because of this curse, he can never hurt her.
The general goes to Khalid with the information about who Tariq is, and Khalid goes to Shazi's chamber. He offers her a knife to kill him with and tells her that he deserves it and that he feels it's finally time to pay the price for what he did to her family, to Tariq, to Shiva, and hopefully end this curse. He tells her that after she kills him, there is a secret door behind his dresser that she can go through and she is to take his horse and escape. She of course is deeply in love with him and although she wanted vengeance for Shiva, she knows this is not the way and she makes him drop the knife and kisses him.
Khalid tells her he has to go meet with the other emir's in the region as a small force is gathering at the border of Khorasan and Parthia and the emir's want to discuss a strategy should the need for one arise as they fear it's the makings of an army. He tells her he will be back in two weeks.
The next chapter starts with Jahandar on a hill overlooking the city. He has gone to the dark side so to say and is following the same dark magic path that Ava's father chose in order to try to save Shazi (not knowing she doesn't even want to be saved).
He slices a horse's throat to use the book of magic which he has now translated and uses the dark magic to bring down a storm upon the city. Tariq and their small army are waiting at the gates. Tariq, not knowing that Jahandar had become this powerful, rushes in to find Shazi when fires break out all over the city due to the lightning strikes.
Inside the palace, Jalal rushes to Shazi's room to get her out of the palace as it's being struck by lightning and major damage is being done there also with walls even caving in, along with the fact that they've heard intruders have invaded the gates now that the storm has blown them away. Shazi tells Jalal to go find Despina and he tells her that she must be his first priority since she is the queen. Shazi tells him about Despina being pregnant so that he will go.
Tariq climbs into her room to take her from the palace and the Rajput fights him but Tariq kills him. Shazi is devastated as she is living two separate lives now and although she knows the Rajput would have killed Tariq and she loves Tariq, she was also friends with the Rajput.
In the chaos, Shazi agrees to go with Tariq just until they get to safety, and then she will tell him in a calmer place about how she must go back to the palace and of her love for Khalid.
When Jalal is at the stables when they try to escape, in order to avoid a fight between Tariq, Rahim, and Jalal, she tells Tariq and Rahim that she can't go with them, that she is home and that she is staying there. Not knowing that her father is powerful enough to bring about destruction such as this, she believes this is part of the curse and tells Jalal that she has to be here when Khalid comes back so that he can fulfill the prophecy and kill her like he's supposed to and that she will make him do it to avoid the city being ripped to shreds.
Jalal tells Tariq to take her out of the city, since he knows that Khalid could never do it and it's better to think that she ran off with Tariq than for her to stay and Khalid be tortured between loving her and destroying his city. When Tariq tells her that her father is waiting for her on a hill outside the city she tells him to take her to him.
The book ends with two riders meeting on a hill near the border. It is Reza and Salim who are bargaining to become allies to take down the palace, unbeknownst to Tariq. When Salim tells Reza he can supply his cause with weapons, one of Salim's soldiers steps forward and in the moonlight a tattoo on his arm flashes; a scarab, the mark of the Fida'i. Now we know that Salim is the one who sent the assassins to take Shazi that night.
Khalid, now back home, stands on his balcony and writes a letter to Shazi before burning it, declaring in it that he will never regret loving her and that he knows he wouldn't have done anything different.
End of Book 1