Title: A Thousand Nights
Author: E. K. Johnston
Publication: October 6th 2015 by Disney Hyperion
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Retellings
Pages: 328 pages
Format: Library book
About the book:
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.
So here’s the alphabetical run down:
The main character in this book does not have a name. I feel like this is a risky choice and I applaud Johnston for taking this risk, because with this book she’s made it work so well. In fact, none of the female characters in the book are given names and are only referred to by their position. By omitting this major detail, the author makes a statement about the time period in which the book was set and what little value was placed on the women’s role in the culture. Lo-Melkhiin’s character is really hard to get an understanding of, but I feel like purposefully so. Also, the chapters told from the perspective of the “demon” (which I will call it for lack of a better term and in order not to spoil anything) are dark and creepy and wonderfully written.
This cover is beautiful. I absolutely love the gold hand lettered look of the title and the words surrounding it. The castle at the bottom is reminiscent of Disney’s “Aladdin” (which is my favorite Disney movie!) and fits perfectly because “Aladdin” was one of the original tales in the collection of stories on which this book is based.
The intense love in this book is between the sisters and is woven into the stories throughout the book. For the vast majority of this book, there is not a romantic relationship.
So there are two pretty big downfalls of this book. One, in the world of YA fiction, which is in general pretty fast paced, this is a slow paced book. If you can get past that and get into the story, it’s a good read with a lot of depth and a really well written and intricate plot. Second, this is the second retelling of the “A Thousand and One Nights” tale. The first, “The Wrath and the Dawn” was published five months prior and is one of my favorite books from 2015. It isn’t even a fair comparison, because they are not at all the same story, but sadly they will be compared, and I prefer TWATD all the way.
“I do fear him,” I said, which was close to the truth. “I fear him as I fear the desert sun and poisonous snakes. They are all part of the life I live. But the sun gives light, and snakes will feed a caravan if they are caught and cooked.”
“I am yours to command, husband,” I said to him, and met his eyes. When my mother spoke to our father, she often said that. He liked it, the way she put herself in his hands. Until just now, I had not realized that since my mother was the one who allowed it, she had more power than even he might have realized. Lo-Melkhiin thought I was less than him; but his was not the only tally.”
Although I feel as though the writing in this book was very good, the pacing was just too slow for me. I couldn’t help but compare it to TWATD, which was fast paced and filled with romance, which I enjoyed a lot more.