Book Review: A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

21524446A Thousand Nights

E.K. Johnston

4/5 stars

Release Date: October 6, 2015

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Chapters/Indigo.ca | B&N | Kobo

Synopsis on Goodreads:

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.

Review:

A gorgeous, magical story! Johnston’s words are beautiful and powerful, and in that respect similar to her protagonist – her storytelling becomes her power. There were some lines that were so poetic, in that I could see so much in just one sentence.

Although confusing at first, I liked that the reader wasn’t privy to the majority of the characters’ names, except for Lo-Melkhiin and a couple secondary characters (though I think the reader was given their titles, not their actual names). It made me think of when legends and stories are passed down through generations, and told far and wide, the names change but the stories remain the same (just look up the similarities of Mesopotamian myths to biblical stories). Adding to that, this is a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights, and while Johnston keeps the essence of the story the same, she brings to life her own characters.

The lack of names also creates a sense of mystery – this could be our world but it could also be some other fantasy world, one that only Johnston knows and can share all of its mysteries and secrets. The reader is given a small glimpse of this world – we know there’s something beyond the horizon, but the possibilities are limitless.

There’s not a lot of romance, but I didn’t mind that. The protagonist marries the king to save her sister – and she’s really a prisoner, trying to find some power to defeat the demon that is the king. Adding romance to that wouldn’t work and I couldn’t see that being published in the YA section.

One of my only dislikes was that sometimes I would drift off and get bored. At times the plot moved too slow for me and had me wondering if the author had enough room to wrap everything up. Although enjoyable, it wasn’t quite what I’d imagined.

The ending was really beautiful and completely satisfying! I’ve heard there’s a companion novel to this book and am looking forward to reading that. Johnston is a talented writer and so far I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve read by her.

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