Thursday, September 24, 2015

Book Review: A Thousand Nights

Title: A Thousand Nights
Author: E.K. Johnston
Genre: Young Adult // Retelling // Magic
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Format: eARC (NetGalley)
Source: Publisher

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.
And so she is taken in her sister's place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin's court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time.But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.
Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.
Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster (goodreads).


A Thousand Nights was not what I expected when I initially requested this title, but its prose and unique characters pulled me in nonetheless. 

Plot: Much like the tale of Shahrazad, our main character is plucked from her desert home and forced into the quasr of her cruel king and husband. Only her wits and story-telling abilities help her live to the next day. This is where the similarities between Arabian Nights and A Thousand Nights end. Interestingly enough, the main character's name is not revealed until the final pages. Actually no one has a name except Lo-Melkhiin, the ruler, and the main character's husband. Everyone else is referred to in regards to their relationship status (ie my father's father's father, mother of my heart) or station in life (the servant girl, the sculptor). It takes some time to get used to, but I thought that the use of formal titles matched the prose and helped the novel read more like a folklore. 

Characters: As I said earlier, none of the characters, save Lo-Melkhiim, have names which strangely did not detract from the novel. A Thousand Nights is told from two perspectives, the main character and Lo-Melkhiin at times.

I know it's hard not to imagine an epic romance between the two in which our defiant MC melts Lo-Melkhiin's icy heart and they live happily ever after, but please do not hold your breath. Romance has no place in this novel as our main character tries to solve the mystery of Lo-Melkhiin's murderous rampage and control the new power that has come into.

World Building: If A Thousand Nights has taught me anything, it's that I need to read more books about the desert! E.K Johnston's colorful description of the unforgiving desert life painted a vivid picture of the beauty and terror of our main character's home.

Short N Sweet: A Thousand Nights is unconventional, but that's what makes it so special!


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