A Thousand Nights
WARNING :: This review contains some light spoilers.
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.
Rating: 4/5 *very good*
A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston is an unconventional young adult book, lacking many of the common tropes in the this genre. You won’t enjoy this book if you are after a steamy romance, with a love triangle and a bad boy. This book offers something a bit deeper, with complex symbolism lurking underneath a surface of beautiful imagery.
Pretentious? Maybe… but it really depends on what you are looking for in a book.
This book presents a rich, well-informed depiction of middle-eastern culture, which is adapted to a fantasy world with a unique mythology. Johnston’s characters are traditional and spiritual, but also strong. I was not surprised to learn at the end of the book that the author had spent considerable time studying in Jordan, as she represents middle-eastern culture confidently.
One unique aspect of this book is that none of the characters are named, except the villain Lo-Melkhiin. The effect is that the book becomes a story about the downtrodden and the oppressed fighting against a powerful evil. Lo-Melkhiin is named because he is the king and has the power. The main character is initially seen as another soon-to-be victim, so her name is not mentioned. The majority of female characters are underestimated and ignored, to the extent that their names are irrelevant to their oppressors. This is largely a ‘David and Goliath’ story with an arguably feminist message.
The book also look at sin and human weakness, cleverly using the demons to represent the dark thoughts (greed, wrath, pride) that can infiltrate the hearts of men. The descriptions of Lo-Melkhiin weaving his way into human minds are vivid and emphasize how vulnerable humans are to corruption.
The relationship between the leads is unconventional and well-written. The story is told through the perspective of the unnamed female, with excerpts from Lo-Melkhiin’s mind inserted at the beginning of numerous chapters throughout. This story telling device is used well and gives the reader a picture of the villain’s true nature, adding a darker element to the story. Conversely, the lead female’s point of view introduces to the world through the perspective of someone new to the opulence of Lo-Melkhiin’s world.
It was also refreshing to read a stand-alone young adult book for a change. So many books in this genre end with a cliffhanger to get you to buy the next book. This was not the case for A Thousand Nights. Although I would be interested to see what happens to the characters and the world, the story wrapped up nicely.
Some people may find this book a little slow, with most of the action concentrated in a rushed climax. This didn’t bother me very much, but I would have liked a longer confrontation at the end. On the whole I thought this book was an excellent read.
Thanks for reading 🙂