Author: E.K. Johnston
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Pre-order this book: Amazon (UK) / Amazon (US) / Book Depository
Releases: 22nd October 2015
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 peace, 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 in 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.
This book, with it's wonderfully beautiful purple cover, is an exquisitely written retelling of Arabian Nights. The retelling part meant very little to me, considering the fact I didn't know the main story of Arabian Nights. My knowledge of that went as far as what I learnt from watching Aladdin as a child. I looked up the story after finishing the book, which now seems like it would have been better to do before I read the book - also helped understand the title, as Arabian Nights is also known as One Thousand and One Nights. You definitely don't need to know the story of Shahryar and Scheherazade to enjoy this story, as they are different in so many ways. But it did help me understand the story and appreciate this story more.
The back of my proof copy came with these words written on the back:
The most dangerous love story ever told.
Before the book arrived, I hadn't been expecting a love story after reading the synopsis for the book. Seeing those words written on the back had me thinking that I had been wrong, and that this was going to be more love story than anything else. It was not. That really threw me off and kept doing so the longer the book went on without there even being one little whiff of a love story. It's not a bad thing, in fact it makes a nice change to read a YA book that doesn't contain a romance storyline taking over the plot. It did mean that I was completely confused as to why they decided to print that on the back of the book.
For those who love setting and world building - and who doesn't - you will not be disappointed by A Thousand Nights. The descriptions are so vivid that you can easily picture the gorgeous settings, the buildings, the beautiful clothes and the mouth-watering food. I struggle a lot to picture settings when I am reading books, but I really didn't struggle here at all.
Characters are important and I want to talk a little about characters, but it's rather hard to do when none of them have names. Lo-Melkhiin does, but our protagonist doesn't. Then we have her mother, her sister, her father, her brothers and on and on. That's what they are known by and referred to as throughout the book, not by their names. I don't know how the author managed to do that for the whole book, but she does. We never learn their names and I admit it bothers me, at least a little. I wanted names, beautiful, wonderful names. And I got none. And it makes me sad. I can tell you that our protagonist is brave, daring and willing to do anything to protect her sister, the person she loves most in the world. I can tell you that her bond with her sister was one of the things I loved most about this book, they have a fantastic sibling relationship. So maybe it's not that important we never learn their names, we don't need to in order to find out about who the characters are. A name is only that, a name. I am a little in awe of the authors choice to leave out names for the characters, and the fact she actually manages to pull it off.
As much as I loved the rich world, the magical elements and the interesting characters. I will admit to not being completely in love with the story. The writing is exquisite and rich, something you can appreciate even if you don't fall in love with the story itself. But I wasn't completely drawn into the story or invested in the characters. I felt a disconnect from them and found it hard to truly care for them, or what happened to them. I felt the pace of the book was too slow for me, I wanted more to be going on. There is a lot of talking and not much action, which makes sense considering the story it's retelling.
This book just wasn't for me in the end, I was a little too bored and not completely invested in the characters or the outcome. It doesn't mean this is a bad book though, it just wasn't the right book for me. It's exquisitely written and I loved the rich prose and could imagine the vivid world she described. I also loved how this book was really about women, and is filled with brave, strong women. It shows our truly strong the bond and relationship between women can be, and that is beautiful to see. Although the story didn't completely captivate me, I know it's one that is going to get so many five star reviews that I will lose count. If it sounds like the story for you then I would definitely recommend it, the writing itself is reason enough to give this story a go.
* I received a copy of this book through LoveReading4Kids in exchange for an honest review.