Thursday, 30 July 2015

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston: Review

Title: A Thousand Nights
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. 

Disney Aladdin animated GIF
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. 

The story itself is magical and captivating, as we watch our main character sacrifice herself in her sisters place. She goes with Lo-Melkhiin, the king who has killed 300 of his wives for reasons that no one knows. She goes with him, even though she knows it is unlikely she will survive their marriage night. But she does. Night by night she survives, with no real understanding of why she is different. But the longer she stays with Lo-Melkhiin, the more she learns. He is not the man his mother knows, he went into the desert to hunt and came back a different man. An evil man, even if he still is a king that serves the majority of his people well. As the magic surrounding him seems to connect with her, she can see there might be a way she can survive. There might even be a way she can return Lo-Melkhiin back to the man he once was. I found the magical, mystical element of the story rather interesting and was a little curious to see how it would all play out.


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.

3/5 Butterflies

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. 

20 comments:

  1. I can handle there being no romance, especially if I'm prepared for it, if I would have read the back and then none, I think I would have been disappointed so thanks for the heads up about it. Glad you did like this.It sounds like it had great world building but I agree it seems strange that not all the characters were named. A little hard to connect to them if you can't even call them something.
    Either way though, it still sounds like you liked this. :D Wonderful review!

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    1. It was a wonderful book in many ways, it just didn't have the action I was hoping for. It was too slow going for me and wasn't what I was expecting. I think I would have loved it more if I could have connected more to the characters.

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  2. I don't mind there being no romance! Sometimes I even want a book with no romance. I just finished reading A Madness So Discreet and there was no romance in it whatsoever. I am a HUGE fan of world building being done right so knowing that happens in this book makes me definitely want to try it. But then I am sure the no names will bother me quite a bit, but as long as it doesn't get confusing as to who is who I would still try it?

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    1. It doesn't get confusing and it is clear which character is which all the way throughout. I just got a little bored whilst reading, the story wasn't exciting enough for me.

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  3. I'm currently reading this (I'm about a third-half way in) and I can already tell I feel differently to you. I can feel a small romance in some areas, or at least a level of respect and hierarchy between the two main characters, and I agree, she somehow pulls off no names, something I only noticed when it came to writing notes and wondering why I couldn't remember her name you know? I'm in love with the magic and the writing and I can tell I'm going to like it a lot - but yes, as an action story, there's not a lot here. Still, I like it, and I like this review! :)

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    1. I'm glad you ended up enjoying this one more than me. I didn't think it was bad, I just wasn't excited by it and found myself getting bored the longer the book went on.

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  4. I just LOVE the setting here and I love how there's no central romance, but I can see how you'd be expecting it after reading that blurb! It's a shame there are a few unnamed characters here, because it sounds like that affected your attachment to some of the characters in the end. I think this is a Jeann book! Thanks for the review Charnell :)

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    1. I think it might be. I hope you read it and LOVE it!!! :)

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  5. My interest is definitely piqued as to why the author would choose to not give anyone names, there's got to be a specific reason. I may have to try and find out. Glad you enjoyed it for the most part, but I'm the same way, if I don't connect with the characters, I'm not going to love the book. I'll probably read this one at some point because I love fantasy novels. Great review! ~Pam

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    1. I'm sure there was, maybe I should look into it. I hope you enjoy it when you read it :)

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  6. How odd the protagonist doesn't have a name.
    @dino0726 from 
    FictionZeal - Impartial, Straighforward Fiction Book Reviews

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  7. SO I AM OBSESSED WITH ARABIAN FOLKLORE SO I NEED THIS BOOK. (I'd been hanging off getting an approval on netgalley but got denied this morning. *sobs*) So I'll probably actually buy this one eventually because I HAVE SUCH A THING FOR PERSIA. *hyperventilates* I'm sorry it wasn't all it could be for you though. That is sadness.

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    1. I hope you love this one when you get it. I am very excited for The Wrath and the Dawn, think that will be the one I love!!! :)

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  8. That cover yo! I love the UK cover so much more than the NA one. I think I have an ARC coming in the mail for me. Even though you didn't love this one, I'm still hopeful for myself.
    I definitely recommend checking out The Wrath and the Dawn. Same re-telling and it's perfection. Easily one of my favourite reads of the year.
    Great review, as always! :D

    Happy reading!
    Brittany @ This is the Story of My(Reading) Life

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    1. I really hope you love it. I have heard amazing things about The Wrath and the Dawn and I am so excited for it.

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  9. First of all, I'm just glad that other tales are being given retellings. Especially this one because I love this particular tale so much as it is more Arabian, and come on, who doesn't love Arabian-esque settings? I read The Wrath and the Dawn which was largely romance-centric and I wasn't really that fond of it (I didn't think it was that well done for me), so I'm looking forward to this one that gives more emphasis on the world-building and the action and the magical elements. I don't particularly mind if there is no romance, too, or if it's not too emphasized XD

    Faye at The Social Potato

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    1. I know, it's nice to see some more stories being retold other than the classic fairy tales. I really want to read The Wrath and the Dawn because I have read some amazing reviews for that. I hope I enjoy it :)

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  10. I really liked this, especially how our MC highlights women and their strengths! Thanks for your review Charnell!

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