Another book identification quest
July 11, 2020 7:41 AM   Subscribe

Help me identify this (maybe) young adult fiction/fantasy (maybe??) book set in the Middle East.

I am having the worst time trying to remember much details about it. I believe it was a YA book. I was reading the comic, Wrath and the Dawn and this memory came back but I can’t place it.

I think it was set in like 1700s-ish times in a Middle Eastern country. It sort of reminded me of Arabian Nights. It involved people comically saying fancier sentences almost to be extremely polite or ridiculous to each other, or out fancy each other, and it was slightly confusing. Things like (and this is not a direct quote) “Oh nameless shahid with the pernicious and loquacious locks of mane, please perch here as I your humble host...”

I really wish I remembered more. At first I thought Kite Runner but that’s impossible. I think I remember it being a fiction or fantasy and it was certainly humorous. It could also have been that whoever spoke like that was a character in a different book (Talking to Dragons? Ugh. Idk.)

If anyone knows I would be so grateful!

I had to had read this no more than 10 years ago, it was not a book from the 80s or earlier.
posted by socky bottoms to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't recall people out-fancying each other, but just to get some popular candidates out of the way, these books come to mind: Salman Rushdie, Haroun and the Sea of Stories (best match for the criteria, I think); Saladin Ahmed, Throne of the Crescent Moon; and S. A. Chakraborty, The City of Brass. Michael Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road seems a good bit further off the mark, but it's sort of humorous and regionally/temporally adjacent.
posted by Wobbuffet at 8:04 AM on July 11, 2020

Thank you Wobbuffet! I don’t think those are it... although I will give a closer look to Haroun because that seems similar. A phrase that came back to me from the book was “O paragon of...” and as a kid I had never heard someone called a paragon, but it happened pretty often in the book.
posted by socky bottoms at 8:11 AM on July 11, 2020

On the grounds that reading it ten years ago doesn't mean it can't have been written twenty years before that, I offer the outside possibility of Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones, in which flowery language is quite prominent: "Stop, I implore you, oh sapphire among spirits!" and "But, most benevolent bombardier and considerate cuirassier" and "Greetings, most noble messenger of the heavens" and so on. Definitely humorous in tone. Also, delightful.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 8:15 AM on July 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

Re paragons, on page 25 of my copy of Castle in the Air we have "... oh paragon of the paintbrush," and Google tells me that somewhere in the text I would also find "oh paragon of generosity".
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 8:22 AM on July 11, 2020

Ahhh that’s it!!! It’s Castle in the Air! Phew. I was quite convinced it was written no later than the 90s but kid brain. Thank you all! Now I’m going to find that at the library.
posted by socky bottoms at 8:25 AM on July 11, 2020

Hooray! It came out in 1990, so you were right (although "ten years ago" may be later than you think!).
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 8:29 AM on July 11, 2020

It can be read on it's own, but it comes after Howl's Moving Castle, if you feel like reading both books. (If the first doesn't grab you, skip to the next; they are different in place and tone and it's mostly that characters from the first book show up periodically in the latter.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 7:44 PM on July 12, 2020

And a third book in the series, different again, came out in 2008: House of Many Ways.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:39 AM on July 13, 2020

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