Thursday, October 1, 2015

Book Review: A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

Pages: 336
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pub. Date: October 6, 2015
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "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." 
She knows that Lo-Melkiin, the king, will come to her village looking for a new wife.  He has killed over three hundred wives since he has started the tradition of going from village to village to search for a wife.  She is worried that her beautiful sister will be chosen, so she takes her place knowing that she'll eventually be killed by the king.  Except once she arrives to Lo-Melkiin's kingdom many days go by and she isn't killed; in fact, he listens to her stories.  As more time goes by, she realizes that the king wasn't always this way.  What has turned him into a monster? E.K. Johnston's A Thousand Nights, a retelling of Arabian Nights, is told in a unique fashion and is very well-written; however, some parts I found to be frustrating.

The main character in A Thousand Nights is unnamed which I think is an interesting and a very challenging way to tell a story.  Obviously, Johnston is a brilliant writer and used this technique to focus on the differences in gender during the time period.  I had a hard time getting to know her and I think it is because the story was told with an oral-tale quality; therefore, it was hard to truly know the main character.

The setting was really captivating in A Thousand Nights. I haven't read too many books with a Middle Eastern setting, so for me it was unique.  However, I think I would have appreciated this book a little bit more if I had been familiar with the original Arabian Nights tale. Also, Johnston weaves some fantasy elements throughout the story which I thought was very well done.  

My one issue with the A Thousand Nights is the writing style. While it was beautiful and literary in every sense, I wonder will the average young adult appreciate this? I am not so sure. In fact, I think it is geared more toward adults or very strong young adult readers.  

Nonetheless, if you are looking for a smart read this fall that is beautifully written, check out A Thousand Nights, especially if you appreciate Arabian Nights.


  1. After reading your review I might give this one a try. I wasn't sure if I would like it but I am curious enough to pick it up from the library sometime. I read and liked The Wrath and the Dawn, this year's other YA retelling of A Thousand and One Nights so it would be interesting to compare the two. I don't know if I will order this for our teen department though. We have a few books that I think appeal to high level YA readers and adults (The Book Thief, Code Name Verity) but I try not to buy too many. Nice review!

    1. I think you'd like this one or at least appreciate the beautiful writing style. I thin the Wrath and the Dawn might appeal to me more from the reviews I read. Thanks for visiting, Christina!

  2. I doubt that I would pick this one up, Christina, but I like that the author incorporated an Arabian Nights feel to it; that's really neat! Hope you have a great day!

    1. I agree...the setting and the author's style was really unique. Thanks for visiting, Tara!

  3. I don't know about this one. I'm all for unconventional retellings, but I at least have to know a bit about the original story it's based from. Anyway, kudos to the author for tackling something this complicated.

    1. Yes, it was definitely complicated and the author wrote it beautifully...that's for sure! I wish I had read up on the original story first. Thanks for visiting, Joy!


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