I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston
Published by Disney Electronic Content on October 6th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance, General
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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. But back 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 in it's place. 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 sets and rises, 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. The words she speaks to him every night are given strange life of their own. She makes things appear. 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 rule of a monster.
Is it just me or is this the year of the A Thousand And One Nights retellings? Either way, this is an abundance of non-white richness and I am a huge fan of that. EK Johnston’s A Thousand Nights is right on point with this young adult trend. While it might lack the richness of The Wrath And The Dawn, it certainly has some merit. For the most part, I had a decent time reading A Thousand Nights.
A Thousand Nights by EK Johnston is the story of this unnamed narrator. She lives in a caravan near a wadi in the desert with her mother, her sister’s mother, their father, brothers as well as other people. They lead happy, useful lives. The narrator is not quite as beautiful as her sister. She simply hopes her sister will marry well and then she can marry the brother of the man who marries her sister and they can continue to be happy forever. Alas, there is trouble brewing. The king, Lo-Melkhiin has taken a bride from every village. None of his brides live very long. So far there have been 300 deaths. In order to save her sister, the narrator dresses up in her finest dishdasha and presents herself to Lo-Melkhiin. She goes with Lo-Melkhiin to the qasr where he rules. There, she somehow manages to live through the night despite the odds. Again, she keeps on living.
You see, the main character of A Thousand Nights is a bit of a fighter. She may not fight with fists and weapons, but she is a fountain of strength. She refuses to be cowed. I love that she uses her cleverness and draws from stories of heroes to keep herself alive. I love that she refuses to be idle and useless. The unnamed narrator has a work ethic that I can totally get behind. Furthermore, she cares so deeply for her family and her sister and this is evidenced by her risking her own life, that they may live. The narrator is the absolute picture of heroism and I really gelled with that, as a reader.
As for the villain of EK Johnston’s retelling, Lo-Melkhiin is a bit scary. Namely because you don’t quite know what he will do next. His character actually has his own narration sections. They are in italics. We get to see why is the way that he is – how he got that way. Also why none of his brides ever live.
The setting of A Thousand Nights is well fleshed out. EK Johnston brings the desert to life in a way that makes it beautiful. It is so easy to picture the scenery when reading Johnston’s rich descriptions. I could picture both the wadi and the qasr. In addition, it was not hard to imagine the various animals at the wadi and the camels and horses as well.
However, I do think that there was a lack of connection on my end when it came to this book. It took me what felt like forever to make my way through it. I just never felt like I was all-in when it came to A Thousand Nights. My reading felt like I was plodding. Also, I think the lack of a name for the main character bugged me a lot. Mainly because some of the men in this book had names, but none of the women, which feels super aggravating.
In the end though, I do like how the book wraps up. I like the strong feelings of girl power – aside from the lack of names. I liked the setting. I just wish that this book had a bit more – but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is – maybe just more oomph and momentum.