Author: E.K. Johnston
Publication Date: October 6th, 2015 (October 22nd in UK)
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I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.
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.
A Thousand Nights is a magical and vivid retelling of the Arabian Nights story. I was captured in the story from the first few pages due to the immersive world-building and lyrical writing but it is also quite vague in places which lets it down somewhat.
Our narrator of the story (who remains nameless throughout) lives a quiet and happy life in the desert with her family. There is a dark cloud hovering, however, in the form of Lo-Melkiin; the ruler of the kingdom who marries girls from every village and murders them before taking another. One day he visits our narrator's tribe and she offers herself to protect her sister.
I really enjoyed the world-building in this book; it's definitely the strongest part. I could picture the desert and the surrounding landscape, the palace where she lived with her captor and I understood the way the world works. I loved being immersed in it.
The writing takes a little getting used to. It's lyrical and doesn't make for a fast read but I think it ultimately works for this kind of story. An issue with it though is that we aren't given a lot of details. As I've already mentioned, all characters other than Lo-Melkiin are nameless and it can become a little bit tiresome to continuously read "father's father's father".
I also struggled to completely follow the magical components. Our narrator has a power that somehow protects her from being murdered and she can also use her power to think things and make them come true. On their meetings together, Lo-Melkiin and she hold hands and a golden light transfers between them. I didn't really get the point of this. I think she was becoming a smallgod but this transference must have been somehow connected to the demon inside Lo-Melkiin too. At these points I was eager for there to be more details but I guess that would have been difficult to do when the narrator wasn't entirely sure herself.
The main action is reserved for the final 10-15% of the story and whilst it was a satisfying conclusion, I wasn't as excited or as on the edge of my seat as I was supposed to be as I didn't feel emotionally connected to the main character enough. With that being said, the impressive writing and world-building did keep me invested in the story throughout, and I can appreciate the overall theme of the unexpected, nameless, having more bravery and power than first meets the eye.