Anthony’s retelling of this Arabian nights tale is his fourth novel. It reveals his love for fantasy and his wish to make this ancient tale accessible to modern readers. The novel also illustrates the extensive research he does for his works as well as his love for history and archaeology. These traits are illustrated in others of his works, including Pretender (1979, with Frances Hall) and The Tatham Mound (1991). Similar goals and research also can be seen in his collaboration with Mercedes Lackey, If I Pay Thee Not in Gold (1993).
Anthony’s Hasan not only elaborates on the original tale but also provides an accurate historical basis for Hasan’s travels throughout Asia. Anthony explains the cultures and lands Hasan visits, intertwining superstitious explanations that might have arisen from the people of the time. A tornado, for example, is viewed as an angry jinn, and a volcano as an awakening marid.
Although Anthony admits, in his autobiographical Bio of an Ogre (1988) and the authors notes in various versions of the novel, that the story is not originally his, his retelling brings a greater fullness and color to the tale. It is a celebration of the culture of the time and place in which the novel occurs. Anthony’s attention to detail breathes new life into Hasan, providing an accurate portrayal of the language and cultural practices of the medieval Arabian people.
Hasan must face several important conflicts throughout the novel. His own devotion to Allah is tested, as well as his judgment and rationality in the face of his youthful enthusiasm and rashness. As the novel unfolds, Hasan less often rejects the advice of his elders, and through his adventures he becomes more the embodiment of the true believer he wishes to be.