REVIEW: A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

*I received a free uncorrected digital version of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. (I’m aware I’m very late in getting to it)

21524446Title: A Thousand Nights
Author: E.K. Johnston
Published: October 6, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Retelling
Format: Ebook
Goodreads | Amazon

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: 5/5 Stars

      A Thousand Nights is a beautiful story about a young unnamed female character who could not bare to lose her sister to the king who had killed 300 brides already, so she purposely made herself into a vision of beauty so she’d be taken instead. The entire tale is full of bravery, cleverness, and a strength that really brought the whole story together to make it feel as real as it possibly could. It’s infused with magic and love and darkness, though in the end, it all comes together.

The prose was elegant, and incredibly well done. The world-building was on point, too and very real (I assume, since I have never lived in a desert before). The desert tribes, their lives, were brilliantly written. I almost wanted to find one and join in! They work hard, they have tough lives, but they never complain and they are so strong. They sing and dance and have such lovely traditions, and they are incredibly wise from all that they have lived through. If our unnamed bride had not come from her home in the desert, I doubt she would have fared so well against the king. In fact, she probably would’ve died, but since her family had prayed for her since she took her sister’s place, she grew a strange power.

The King has a power too, though. It kills, and it destroys. He claimed at one point that they were the same, but she does not destroy or kill, she fixes things and tries to help to the best of her ability. At first I wasn’t sure what to make of her, but it became very clear early on that she is loyal, strong, brave, and clever. She was not bitter or angry with her life, even if her sister had a shadow she was supposed to live in.

      “I am not you,” I said to her. I was not bitter. She had never made me feel the lesser, and she had only scorn for those who did.

She couldn’t, for the life of her, allow Lo-Melkhiin to take her sister away when everyone loved her so dearly. She wanted to protect her sister, and her love for her was so fierce that she made sure she would be the one taken.

    “Lady mother, we must be quick if we are to save your daughter.”

My sister’s mother looked up and clung to the silk I offered to her.

“How?” she said to me, an I saw a desperate hope burn in her eyes.

Lo-Melkhiin took a little longer for me to really form an opinion on. He was cruel but clever, strong but weak in wanting power so much. He didn’t care about the lives he took, nor did he care that he took so many. He got power from it, so who was he to deny more? And yet there were glimpses of a kind man, of who he used to be. And it wasn’t until I read of how he was in the desert and came back changed that I realized what had happened. There were many twists that I did not see coming, and it kept the story fresh and me intrigued. I had a hard time putting the book down.

“It was never enough for me. I craved more.”

The magic never felt separate to the story, as it tends to. It was entangled in the stories told, entwined with each word spoken and unsaid, and it was a part of both King and unnamed bride. There were wonderful creations, lives destroyed, lives given back, and there was a strength that came from it. If Lo-Melkhiin decided to mess up the women’s crafts, she fixed it. If Lo-Melkhiin decided to make one of his guards carve stones with eyes that are wrong to everyone but him, so be it, but she will do her best to help the carver. And if Lo-Melkhiin decided to bring out his kind to take down many, she fought him until there was no more war.

The author did a magnificent job with this book, and I definitely intend to buy A Thousand Night and the companion novel when it comes out. This book is worth a re-read, which I almost never do. I definitely recommend reading it!

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