I received this book for free from Netgalley 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-Hyperion on October 6, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling
Format: Electronic, E-book ARC
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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.
As soon as I saw this cover, I knew I had to read this book. Of course, I knew *of* the tale it is based on (1001 Arabian Nights), but I didn’t go in expecting anything. And I think that helped me enjoy this book so much more than if I would have looked for a passionate love story. Instead, what I got was an ethereal, magical tale that wooed me from beginning to end.
Our story begins with a ruthless king, who has overtaken many of the lands and has a penchant for taking a wife, bedding her, and then killing her. This part is much like the original story. The clans have brokered a deal with Lo-Melkhiin that only one sacrifice (aka daughter) may be taken from them. Therefore, the girl is basically saving the rest of her people from death and the wrath of this mad king.
While this is probably not a job many would seek out, our protagonist makes it her mission to be chosen. She cannot allow her beautiful, sister, the belle of her people and her dearest friend, to be taken. And so she boldly makes herself a prize to be won. And in doing so, creates a chain of events that our story follows.
The first thing I have to say about this book is that it isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s slow… it meanders in a way that typically annoys me with a book, because I’m a get-to-the-point kind of person, but for some reason, the fairytale quality of this story made it work. But it doesn’t deviate from its pace, so if that isn’t your thing, you are not going to be happy. However, I will say the pace gave the story a richer quality, made it seem more literary than fantasy at times.
The second thing I have to talk about is the way the ‘stories’ were used in this book. The book isn’t a retelling in the sense that other books out this year might be. It takes the essence of the original and gives it a new face. The magic part of the book was probably my favorite part. There are stories that our protagonist tells to her captor, but the stories I loved were the stories of the people, the stories of her sister doing what she could to protect her, and the magic created from that. And then there is the king, Lo-Melkhiin. The reasoning behind his behavior was so interesting and really took the book in a different direction for me. The way this story is told is just so unique and creative. I can say without a doubt, it made this book stand out for me in the subgenre of retellings.
Another thing about this book that is great is its focus on the female. This wasn’t about a girl succumbing to the wiles of her captor. It wasn’t about women getting captured and killed by a maniac king. The book didn’t romance me into a Stockholm relationship. Instead, it was a story about a girl, a brave girl, who above all wanted to protect her sister. And by protecting her, she came into her own, becoming a power to be reckoned with. Her sister took one path and she another, but the two still had this deep bond and relationship that I loved. And she was able to continue cultivating relationships while in the palace.
This book was told in a way that appreciated the culture. I learned more about the Persian culture, but I didn’t feel I was getting a watered-down version. I appreciated the authenticity and care the author seemed to take in this respect.
IF nothing else I’ve said will make you want to pick this book up, the writing should. It is absolutely gorgeous. It paints this story and this desert land in such a way that I really felt I was there. I’ve never been to the desert, but I could see so much of the world Johnson was creating.
Overall, this was an absolutely breathtaking spin on a classic tale that is going to sweep you off your feet in a way you’ve never been swept before.
Three winners will receive a finished copy of A THOUSAND NIGHTS (US Only)
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