A Thousand Nights by E.K Johnston cover, taken from the Netgalley website.
Release date: October 6, 2015
Disclaimer: The Disney Book Group over at Disney-Hyperion kindly provided me with a digital galley/digital ARC of this book on Netgalley. I was not obligated to review it, but I would love to share my thoughts with you anyway! (And thank you, to them, because I have been yearning to read this book since I first heard it existed!)
Ok, I know I’m a little early in the game to review this. But the book is available for preorder now for all you lovely readers, and I wanted to offset some of the advance negative comments I’ve read about this book. I actually squealed with delight when I heard I was being given a chance to review this novel for myself!
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.
I have not read the original collection of stories, One Thousand and One Nights that I believe this novel is a new retelling of. I also have not read The Wrath and the Dawn, which is also a retelling of the aforementioned story. So, this review is based solely on what I thought of the book, not on how it compares to the original story or any other retellings.
First of all, I read this book in one sitting, in the car during a long drive. It didn’t take me long at all to read because it is so engrossing. Immediately you are sucked into this world, swept up into the darkness surrounding Lo-Melkhiin’s kingdom. The words that make up the story are woven together beautifully.
E.K Johnston has done storytelling at its finest.
I loved how the story started out one way, and then ran with it. There were elements of magic in it, a lot of courage and bravery, dramatic moments, good vs. evil, etc. This made it really entertaining to read.
Another unique element to the story was the perspectives. I won’t tell you who the other perspective is, besides our main character, but that added such an interesting element to the story. Some multiple POV stories are a little annoying, going back and forth like that, but this one only switched at the right times, and enriched the setting and situation even more.
One thing I’ve seen a lot of reviewers complain about is the lack of a name for our main character. Or, pretty much anyone else. We hear about “my father’s father’s father” and “my sister’s mother” but never “My great-grandfather Stanley.” Ok, his name probably wouldn’t be Stanley. But you get my point.
But while this vague naming is a little monotonous to read, I feel that there was a point to this. One reviewer said she stopped 75% of the way through the book to try and figure out if she’d missed something, but I think all these people are missing something. This girl is nameless. Yes, she probably has a name, but within Lo-Melkhiin’s world, she’s just another girl. He married and killed hundreds before her. They were just property. Possessions. Toys. She’s just another wife, really. If she had a name, that’d give her power and status. So no, the author didn’t just “forget” to put in a name.
I also read that some people thought they were misled to believe this book would have some whirlwind romance. But upon my reading of the blurb, I didn’t sense any of that. I didn’t think there was supposed to be one;
Just because it’s a YA novel, doesn’t mean the girl needs to be swept off her feet by prince charming.
And yes, there is a lack of dialogue. But again, this book is told like a story. It’s told like you’re sitting in the desert being told a story. You don’t need dialogue! Or names! Or a romantic sex scene! Seriously people? A Thousand Nights is gorgeously written as it is.
Of course, that’s just me. Everyone is going to read and see things differently, so just because I didn’t read the blurb and think it hinted at a romantic story, doesn’t mean someone else won’t see it that way.
Instead of a frilly romance, you get a story about strong resilient and determined women. Most of the characters are women. Our heroine is a woman. How many books can you say this about? How many books put so much emphasis on females and their wit.
What made me love this novel even more was that in the Acknowledgements, I noticed the author says she spent time in Jordan. (Four years and six summers, actually) I’m sure this influence the author in writing the book, and it shows. The setting really comes alive, and it makes me happy to see it is probably based on research. Plus, our master storyteller here is an archaeologist. How cool is that?
This book was different from the books I normally read in a few ways. But, I felt is was quite well done. Sure, I think I would’ve liked the main character to have a little more depth to her character, but then again, this book is storytelling. If you were being told a story that’s been passed down for generations, you probably aren’t hearing it the same way the original people heard it, because some details would be lost or just unimportant to the true matter at heart. Don’t read this book expecting to swoon; read this book because you want some excellent, vibrant storytelling based on a true classic.
For these reasons, I’m giving A Thousand Nights 4 stars.
Oh yeah, and the cover is gorgeous. You know I can’t review a book without at least mentioning the cover.
I wasn’t told to tell you where you can buy the book but I did notice if you preorder it on Amazon right now, the hardcover is only $9.08. Less than 10 bucks for a hardback, and Amazon isn’t even ThriftBooks or any of those book discount sites. And hey, you could read it with The Wrath and the Dawn and find out which retelling you liked better! I can’t wait for October so I can hear all of your thoughts on the book!