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 a 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 really should have written this review before I gave the book back to the library but oh well. This review contains spoilers so don’t read on unless you’ve read the book (or don’t mind being spoiled for it).
A Thousand Nights is a retelling of 1001 Arabian Nights much like The Wrath and the Dawn is but the similarity stops there. This book is completely the opposite of The Wrath and the Dawn in plot, in story, in the reason for the man marrying a wife and killing her every night.
I really loved this book. The writing was simply magical which perfectly fit with the plot of the book and I was hooked from the very beginning, wondering what was going to happen. The small excerpts in between each chapter from the villain’s POV was really nicely done, it showed you just how aware they were of what the main character was doing and it let me know that there was more going on there behind the scenes. Johnston managed to use only Lo-Melkhiin’s name and no one else’s while making sure I knew who was who and who was saying what without me getting frustrated at the book. It does make it annoying to review but I loved how it was done.
The magic system was wonderful, with the main character’s trances sneaking up on her unawares and wowing and scaring the people around her. The culture with magic is interwoven done beautifully, with marriage and smallgods and families all being part of the story. The colours being used with the metal and the purple cloth was really nicely done and the descriptions were impressive. It set the scene beautifully and I felt like I was there watching the river rush below. The demons were terrifying, especially with what they did to Lo-Melkhiin and the other women they killed, and I was so glad to see how the book ended.
Despite not liking sad stories, I really liked how the book didn’t shy away from tragedy. Like the main character’s sister’s brother and the children at the end and the main character’s feelings about it, sadness and grief but with a pragmatic sense that life has to go on, was so well suited for the nomadic life they lead in the desert, that I really appreciated it. I also loved how the story made the constant distinction between how it was women who stopped the demon in this story. How it was women who created things that were ignored by the demon and how their stories carried to give the power to the main character as a smallgod and how their grief was what led to someone standing up to the demon. The main character appreciated her father and her brothers and that was lovely to see but it was her sister and her mothers who were in her heart when she came back to the village.
I would definitely like to get a hard copy of this and reread it. I would definitely recommend this to someone who wanted a more whimsical, fantasy story. Five stars!