Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

A Thousand Nights

Author: E.K. Johnston
Year: 2015
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Genre: Retelling
Age: YA 13+

I want to start by saying that I only picked up this book because I received the second one (Spindle) on Netgalley not knowing that they were a duology. I plan on reading and reviewing the second book as well in the near future.

I have never read the book that inspired this one but I know a little bit about the tale. It’s inspired by the book One Thousand & One Nights or Arabian Nights depending on your country. It’s a collection of works featuring Arabic, Persian, Indian, & Egyptian stories. The main story that serves as the inspiration for this new book is about a king that discovers his wife is unfaithful, & has her executed. From then on he is of the mindset that all women are this way. So the king has the vizer help him marry a different virgin in succession only to kill them the next day. At some point all the virgin girls are gone so the vizer’s daughter offers herself to the king. On the night of their marriage the daughter begins to tell the king a story. But she does not finish it so she lives until the following night. This pattern continues for 1,001 nights. All the different variations of the story have different details but the ending always ensures that the girl lives.  

So in this retelling the main character is a nameless girl who goes with the king in place of her sister. The King, Lo-Melkhiin has killed thousands of girls already & the newest one intends to end this horrible practice. She lives through the nights by telling the King stories from her village. Back home her sister & the rest of her village all worry for her life, so they pray for her and to their smallgods so that she will live.

The girl that is the new Queen has a special gift. She can use something she calls “copper fire” to see things around her, in her village, & predict when things will happen. This combined with her skills in weaving makes her an interesting target for Lo-Melkhiin. It is said that the King has a demon inside of him and that makes him a bad man. When Lo-Melkhiin visits her each night she sends her copper fire to him & his cold demon suffocates it. But as time goes by she is becoming more & more useful to him because of her gift.

The girl believes that she can vanquish the demon but she will need the help of Lo-Melkhiin’s mother, her village, & some special animals to make it happen. Will she sacrifice her life & become a smallgod to her family, or will her knowledge of the desert & her fire overcome the darkness inside of Lo-Melkhiin?

At the end of each review I usually do likes & dislikes but this was one of the weirdest books I have ever read! I’m still on the fence about it overall. It wasn’t a bad book by any means. It was beautifully written, had great characters, an amazing setting & the description of the world around them, & had a mix of stories & dialogue. But that being said I felt that there was a little too much story telling about her village. There would be whole chapters about herding sheep or how they get water.  Intermixed with the stories were also small chapters that I think were supposed to be from the demon/Lo-Melkhiin’s point of view. I was pleased to see in the end that it had a happy outcome after all of the heartache. 


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