I was genuinely surprised to see the low rating this book has on Goodreads, because I thought it was fabulous.
The story takes place in a Middle Eastern Country in the 18th century. The ruler (Akond) has two sons, the first a stillborn, or so they said. The younger one, Blom is an unfit heir to the Akond's kingdom and as the ruler struggles to make him the next suitable Akond, his mind keeps wandering back to the first born. Meanwhile, in a forest in a neighbouring village, there are rumours of an immortal wolf boy, half human and half beast who kills the villagers' goats and haunts the forest. A rich lonely man finds the boy and raises him as his own son. As the boy begins to grow up, his angelic beauty catches the attention of the girl living next door and she begins to relate to his loneliness. He too secretly spies on her. The story takes a turn when the girl is chosen to be the young Akond's bride.
This is a classic setting for a fairytale and we can guess what happens next. But the point of the fable isn't to create suspense, anyway. What is on the outside a simple, run-of-the-mill tale, has much more to give. The romance is subtle and the relationships are delicate and intricate and in story with such a hugely mythical air, very realistically portrayed.
Fuller adds another dimension to the story with the parts about a troop of deserters from Napoleon's Army who happen to come across this land and are invited to settle there by the Akond. Here we get to read Fuller's take on rationalism and progress.
According to tradition, the moment the younger heir turns twenty one, the ruler has to turn over the kingdom to him and leave the palace to settle elsewhere. As Blom begins to grow up, the interactions between the current ruler (Blom's father) and the oldest Akond are very touching and beautiful. They tell us a lot about life and satisfaction, seizing the moment and the fear of death.
The language is beautifully constructed and tugs at the heartstrings. The prose is a bit stilted in places, but easy enough to get through. The story is interspersed with little poems and sonnets which are apt and beautiful and give the story an even more fable-like quality. The tale is short and keeps you engrossed throughout. It is a gem of a book, really, and I am glad to have found it!