Title: A Thousand Nights
Author: E.K. Johnston
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Release Date: October 6, 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 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.
All book reviews I write are spoiler-free!
Rating: 4/5 stars
A Thousand Nights is a retelling of the original classic One Thousand and One Nights, also known as Arabian Nights. I had pretty low expectations going into this, mainly due to a lower Goodreads rating and people talking about how it pales to The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. Despite that, I had a lot of fun reading this book overall – I thought it was a fantastic retelling.
I loved the deeper meanings that were weaved into the story, as well as the beautiful, atmospheric writing. Although I enjoyed the story, I thought that the ending was too rushed. I would’ve liked the ending to be prolonged, or for there to have been an epilogue. There were also parts throughout the book that were dense and confused me, which had me going back to re-read paragraphs. These aspects therefore had me taking one star off of my rating. However, I had a great time reading the book as a whole and I would definitely recommend it.
Retelling of a Classic, with a Feminist Spin
You don’t need to be familiar with the original One Thousand and One Nights to enjoy this book. That being said, I think you would appreciate this story more knowing the premise of the original. That’s because this retelling spins the original story into one that focuses more on the strength of women, and I loved that – the original story was written hundreds of years ago, so women were really taken for granted back then. This book twists the original story to illustrate the true importance of women.
No one in the book has a name except for the king, Lo-Melkhiin. There are many women introduced, but none of them give their names – not even the protagonist. Women are continuously referred to as “her,” “the mother,” “the sister,” “the woman,” etc. This strengthens the theme of women being unfortunately invisible in the culture; however, the actions of the women belies that seeming unimportance. In addition to the poetic writing, this anonymity of women in the book gives the story a mysterious atmosphere.
The author paints beautiful scenes, and the magic aspect in the story is fascinating. This book has made me absolutely yearn to visit a desert at night. In addition to the vivid imagery, there’s a strong fairy tale vibe because of the magic and how certain scenes played out. However, that “fairy tale” is executed in a mature manner. The story was darker than I had anticipated, and there’s also some fairly monotonous chapters that many young adult readers may not be accustomed to. As I was reading, I was continuously questioning why the book was classified as young adult.
Young Adult? Low Goodreads Rating?
This book reads more like a literary work than a typical young adult book, so that initially caught me off-guard. There are messages conveyed through the story told, so that understandably paves a path for a slower read. Some parts feels drawn out, and I sometimes found myself wondering when something would actually happen. However, I realized later that even the slow scenes in the book were significant. Therefore, the slow pace in the book actually turned out to be something that I enjoyed and appreciated.
There’s not a focus on romance in this book, and I loved that. I found it refreshing because I’ve been recently reading so many young adult novels with insta-love, love triangles, and unrealistic relationships. It was nice reading a story where the protagonist wasn’t basing her decisions off of love, but for the greater good. I therefore believe that this lack of an typical romance was why the book isn’t as highly rated on Goodreads. It also doesn’t help that there was another One Thousand and One Nights retelling released the same year. Here are the comparisons of the two retelling ratings, as of May 23rd, 2016:
As of now, I haven’t read The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, so I can’t accurately comment on the differences yet, but I think that a big reason this book was rated so much lower on Goodreads was because of A Thousand Nights isn’t what young adult readers expect, unlike The Wrath and the Dawn. From the general gist I have of The Wrath and the Dawn, it has more of an in-depth romance and a plot that makes the reader swoon. Therefore, going from The Wrath and the Dawn to reading this book can be unappealing for readers, especially if they’re expecting something more romantically immersive. Don’t get me wrong – A Thousand Nights is definitely an immersive read. It just isn’t focused on romance like a lot of young adult novels are.
I’d highly recommend this to people who love the classic One Thousand and One Nights, as well as people who enjoy reading retellings without the added whimsical romance. Although there’s a slower pace than typical in young adult novels, this story is still captivating and entertaining. I felt like I was reading a fairy tale for adults. There was that mysterious aspect of a lot of fairy tales, with the darker vibe of more serious and meaningful books. This book is a great example of how a retelling should be written.
If you’ve read this book, let me know your thoughts! I’d love to hear what you thought about it. If you haven’t picked this up yet, feel free to ask any questions you might have about it!