Tuesday, 13 October 2015
Review: A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication Date: October 6th, 2015
Source: Publisher **I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review**
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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. 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.
Honestly, I was a little hesitant going into A Thousand Nights. And that's only because I read and loved The Wrath and the Dawn earlier this year. See both are re-tellings of One Thousand and One Nights. So you know, it was inevitable that I was going to be comparing A Thousand Nights to The Wrath and the Dawn. Just how it goes. Except I didn't. The similarities start and end at being based off the same re-telling. A Thousand Nights is its own story. A very beautiful story at that. I was absolutely pulled in by its uniqueness from page one.
Like I mentioned, A Thousand Nights is a re-telling of One Thousand and One Nights; a collection of Arabic folk tales. The king, Lo-Melkhinn is traveling through his lands searching for wives. As the stories travel, he has married many a beautiful women. But each one has barely made it through a night before being killed. Our MC knows her sister will be chosen, and she cannot allow that. So she dresses as her and is chosen in her sisters place. Our MC has plans to kill the king and stop more women from being murdered. Lo-Melkhiin becomes fascinated by our MCs rich stories, and the power she seems to be holding. And thus she continues to survive through the nights. A Thousand Nights starts to take on a more magical feel as the book progresses and our MC realizes her sister worshiping her as a small God may be keeping her alive. And also maybe she can save Lo-Melkhiin from whatever has taken over his body and mind.
Before going into A Thousand Nights I had heard that the characters do not have names. And that some reviewers were finding that hard to follow along with the story. So being aware of that quirk might have made me prepared. But I'm not to sure. What I am sure about that having literally only one character with a name was so freakin' clever. It did not mess me up in any way. Our MC doesn't have a name, but really she didn't need one to understand her and her motives. She referred to her sister as sister, her father as father, etc... Easy. What I took away from Johnston not giving her characters names, except the king, Lo-Melkhiin was how he held all the power. The power in controlling his kingdom, his men and in killing his wives. They say a name can hold all the power and that's what I saw. Why give a name to a servant, they don't matter to a king. Why give a name to even the MC, because she does not matter to the king. It's also indicative of the time period where men have all the power over women(or so they think). One man to rule them all(Lord of the Rings joke. Anyone?).
The story was so compelling. I was drawn in by the unique and clever story telling and the beautiful writing was an added bonus. It truly was written like a I was reading an old folk tale. Our MC is such a strong fearless women. She steps in to save her sister without a second thought except that she loves her. She is the love of her life. Talk about an iron tight sisterly bond. I believe this now stands as one of the best ones I've come across in YA. Her unwavering stone like emotions around Lo-Melkhiin were so admiral. Like she said, why be fearful of him when there is so much to actually be fearful of in the desert. I loved her progression as she realizes she is starting to control her stories. Is her sister giving her the power of a small God? Our MC might be able to control her future after all. I love seeing a strong women in the face of a time where men hold all the power. At that time it's the subtle control that shows how women are not so weak.
I will admit that a few times I was confused as to what exactly was happening between our MC and Lo-Melkhiin. Not romance wise, as this is a book that does not focus on romance at all. But what was happening between them and this magic? Power? There were threads of colour being transferred and I would have liked just a bit more explanation on what this power transfer was exactly. Especially because Lo-Melkhiin was so inspired by it. He was sure they could rule the world. Our MC and this demon Lo-Melkhiin.
With all the usual fairy tale re-tellings out there it's hard to find a unique and new take on something that's been done so much. A Thousand Nights offers that new and different. Not only is a re-telling of a tale that now I've only come across twice, it's also stunningly beautifully written with an absolutely unique and compelling story. Add in that it's a stand alone and I really don't see why it won't become a lot of readers new favourite book. A Thousand Nights is definitely a book I will come back to experience down the road.