A Thousand NightsBy E. K Johnson
A Thousand Nights #1
October 6th, 2015
Fantasy, Retelling, Diverse
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.
To me, reading is more than just seeing words on a page. A truly great story means that the reader is left with something to think about and remember. While A Thousand Nights seemed like an okay book when I read it, upon reflection, it is a forgettable book.
The plot is really nothing special. There is an evil king who steals a spunky girl. The rebellious girl does not want to put up with his supernatural crap. There is a rebellion. There is death and destruction, all carefully planned out so it could be seen from a mile away. Nothing surprised me. I was definitely confused during some parts, but never really shocked or intrigued.
But, I will give this book some credit for the diversity and uniqueness. Since this is a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights, the whole cast is Arabian with a rich culture rooted in the desert. My favorite part about the novel was learning about the desert through the eyes of its people. I loved seeing their traditions and stories and beliefs. I have always been a suburban girl at heart, but somehow Johnson made the desert seem like an interesting place to live.
The writing was also very beautiful. Words seemed to dance on the page. Unfortunately, that came at the cost of a less complex plot. The pretty words seemed like filler, like a substitution for action and intrigue. Even though I love beautiful writing and style, I need to have substance with novels as well. The pace was super slow, like all of the characters were just plodding through thick sand (which they actually did quite often throughout the novel). I wanted more conflict, interaction, discussion, anything really.
Along with the diversity, this book also veered from the crowd since no characters were named. None. At. All. It was a unique approach that added a different style to the piece, but I was not really a fan. While I commend the author's sanity since keeping all of the characters straight must have been quite a feat, it was just very confusing for me as a reader. Personally, I need to have a concrete name to identify characters with or else they will all just blend together. The major factor of this book's forgettableness is that I could never connect to any of the characters because I could not remember who they were.
Even as I am writing this review, I am struggling to remember the plot and how I felt about it. I did not read this book that long ago, yet I feel as if it has been buried in my memory for years. The cultural representation of the desert people was nicely done, but nothing else stood out to me.
If you are looking for a diverse book with pretty words and not a lot of plot, then give it a chance. If you need names and conflict, then just pass.
How do you feel about characters not being named? Do you value good writing or good action more? Have you ever wanted to live in the desert?