Review

A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston

a-thousand-nights“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, I was of two minds about this book.

One mind really enjoyed the lush writing style and storytelling.  There was an old-fashioned feel the prose that suited the tale well and reminded me of some novels that I’ve read that were written many decades ago.  The other mind was raising and eyebrow and thinking “Really?”  And it’s hard to reconcile those two different viewpoints into one coherent opinion.  I guess, for this title, it will really depend on what you want out of an Arabian Nights retelling and what you’re in the mood for when you pick it up.

If you like strong female characters, you may like our unnamed heroine, who doesn’t just sit on her butt and wait for something to happen to her, but instead takes control of her fate.  You may not like her because, as I mentioned, she is unnamed–she literally has no identity beyond her roles in the story.

If you like powerful storytelling, you’ll probably enjoy the bits of the original that creep into the narrative in the form of the nightly stories (for the small amount of time that they last), and you might like the later chapters where war against Lo-Melkhiin is brewing.  On the other hand, you might think that the focus on this war takes away from the retelling of the source material.

If you like evocative prose, I’m pretty sure you’ll be eager to read some of the descriptive sentences that the author dreams up.  Or, you could be of the opinion that there are too many words being used to express simple concepts.

See?  It’s all in the interpretation and what you want to be reading at any given time.  I went back and forth between such viewpoints as I read the book, and when I got to the end, I was a bit let down.  I really enjoyed the early chapters with the nightly storytelling, but the novel quickly left that behind.  However, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy the book overall, so I can give a cautious recommendation of this book.

This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

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