Hello blookunity! This book was my latest conquest. It was provided for review by Macmillan via The Dorothy Butler Children’s bookshop, so thank you!
Title: A Thousand Nights
Author: E.K Johnston
Genre: YA fantasy
Publication date: October 2015 (I’m only including this ’cause it says it on the back.)
Themes: Stories, magic, power, friendship, middle east, weird demons that take over significant portions of your head
Summary( from Goodreads): Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to my village, looking for a wife.
When Lo-Melkhiin – a formidable king – arrives at her desert home, she knows that he will take her beautiful sister for a wife. Desperate to save her sister from certain death, she makes the ultimate sacrifice – leaving home and family behind to live with a fearful man.
But it seems that a strange magic flows between her and Lo-Melkhiin, and night after night, she survives. Finding power in storytelling, the words she speaks are given strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. But she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king . . . if only she can stop her heart from falling for a monster.
Set against a harsh desert backdrop, A Thousand Nights by E K Johnston is an evocative tale of love, mystery and magic that would not feel out of place if Scheherazade herself were telling it.
And perhaps she is…
I loved this book so much. Right now, it’s hard for me to define why, but as usual I’ll discuss various aspects.
Premise: You (hopefully) read the blurb, but the idea is different to A Thousand Nights (I think) in that she doesn’t just live because she tells stories with cliffhangers, but more like finds power in stories. The way this magical powers are described is somewhat nebulous, but is so, so incredible. One interesting thing about this book is that almost no characters have names. They are all ‘my sister’ ‘my father’ ‘my serving girl’ This really added to the sense of the setting and gave it a very unique voice.
Setting: OMG the setting was amazing. Apparently the author used to live in Jordan? She made it sound so realistic, and she (the nameless MC) described the desert/city with so much attention to detail that you could just tell the author understood the culture really well. (or maybe she just had a really good imagination)The bath houses, the deserts, the animals, the weaving rooms, the food, was all exquisitely portrayed and was so, so gorgeous and perfect.
Characters: They were…good? So this book was supposed to be ‘the most dangerous love story ever told’, but the thing was, there wasn’t really a love story. There was, most importantly, the love between the MC and her sister, which drives her to marry Lo-Melkhiin, but he is a killer. In the end, the choice the MC makes isn’t really about love (except, as I mentioned, the love of her sister, her desert home, her family, her kingdom), but rather the idea of ‘a good man’. But on the other hand, considering the culture of arranged marriages, this actually made sense. It made the ‘love’ different but true, somehow, and kind of showed how marriage can be about family and home rather than merely love of the person you are marrying. As for the MC (so annoying not having a name!), I felt she somehow managed to fit the Arabian culture but also empower herself. She was curious and honest and so so strong. And I loved what she did in the battle scene in the end and how she weaved her own quiet, powerful magic without making much fuss about it.
Plot: While it had good movement, it didn’t exactly have a lot of direction, and I didn’t always know where it was going. The battle scene I just mentioned was unexpected, but I liked the way it tied together in the end.
I guess that in conclusion, this was such, such an amazing book. It was unexpected, and wasn’t romantic in the way you might expect, or as Arabian-nightish as you might expect, but I loved how fresh it was, the culture, the descriptions, and the writing style. If you like interesting MCs, diverse settings, nebulous magic, or really good writing, then READ IT.
Writing style: 5/5
What’s a 5 star book you read recently? Do you like the Arabian Nights stories (or know them, unlike me)? Do you have recommendations of books with really exquisite settings?