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

A Thousand Nights
by E.K. Johnston
On Sale Date: October 6, 2015
Juvenile Fiction \ Fantasy & Magic
Ages 14 And Up, Grades 9 to 17
336 pages

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.

"They would wash and prepare me like a bride, but I knew that I was being dressed for death. Yet there was that sound, pulling at the whirlwind of my thoughts. I decided in that moment that I must live through the night, because I wished to know what made that sound. I walked up the stairs, and into Lo-Melkhiin’s harem."

A THOUSAND NIGHTS is a beautifully rendered story that takes the threads of the One Thousand and One Nights and explores the myth behind Scheherazade. 

In this story, the king Lo-Melkhiin has killed three hundred girls before he comes to her village, looking for a wife - this is the tale of a nameless village girl who dares to brave (defy) a destiny that ensures her death, as 301 of his brides, yet she will be the last, but why? 

"This was no wedding. This was war."

A THOUSAND NIGHTS takes place in a fantastical world. A rich Middle Eastern setting is brought to life through authentic feeling cultural details and customs while vivid imagery - you will see, feel, smell and touch this fantastic world - experiencing them through the heroine's strong, yet subtle voice.

As a fantasy story, the magic in A THOUSAND NIGHTS is subtle, crafted carefully to add a layer to the story. Magic that finds its way into normal, everyday tasks with surprising results. Demons, magic, and lore all mix here. 

This is a tale that slowly, thoughtfully unwinds. It is character driven rather than intricate plot and fast action. With a sweeping sense, similar to literary reads, that story focuses on the battle that takes place between "She" our nameless heroine and Lo-Melkhiin. A battle of wits, between a human and something NOT, which is made even more evident by the use of dual points of view! Both the nameless heroine and Lo-Melkhiin drive the story forward, as each night ends and the sun rises - we wonder if "SHE" can outwit him a day longer.

"Now I had a challenge ready-made. I did not know how to bend the heart of a woman, but Lo-Melkhiin did."

A THOUSAND NIGHTS does not have a traditional romance, but it tells a beautiful version of the love between sisters and mothers, the strength of family and culture. Nameless - the many girls who have died, the women - mothers, daughters, sisters who honor them - gives power to something nameless in a stunning way. 

In the end, A THOUSAND NIGHTS is storytelling at its finest. Subtle and lyrical, detailed and thoughtful, E. K. Johnston creates a beautiful new rendition, a powerful and clever retelling of One Thousand and One Nights that should not be missed. 

My Rating: 5 Stars! I loved it

Similar Books: Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow and A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn

Please Note: A courtesy review copy of this book was provided by Disney-Hyperion  in exchange for my fair and honest review. Thank you, Disney-Hyperion for review opportunity.

Special Quote

“My love, you sing a man to sleep,” he said to me. He had not seen the real purpose of the song, and that made me glad. “Come to bed, then.” He did not touch me. I took the pins from my hair, and shed the dress so that I stood before him in henna and shift alone. If he knew what the symbols meant, he gave no sign. I did not think he did. Men did not, usually. It was only women’s art, after all. “Come to bed,” he said to me again. I turned my heart to stone, and climbed into bed with the viper."