A Thousand Nights

A Thousand Nights


Title: A Thousand Nights

Author: E.K. Johnston

Series: N/A

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

Release Date: October 20th 2015

Rating:

Five Stars

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.

– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

“Every time the story began the same way; Lo-Melkhiin picked one girl and took her back to his qasr to be his wife. Some in his keeping lasted one night, some as many as thirty, but in the end all were food for the sand crows.”

From the very beginning an incredible story was woven. We aren’t given the names of any character’s other than Lo-Melkhiin but the first time I read this book I was half way through before I realised the main character hadn’t told us her name. Instead she spoke to us, and it was as if she was telling her story directly to the reader as well as to her husband each night, drawing us into her world as the pages went by. A Thousand Nights tell us a story from three perspectives; the demon that haunts Lo-Melkhiin’s mind and controls his body, his new wife, and her sister who was left behind in the desert.

When Lo-Melkhiin travels to her village to find a new wife our main character knows who he will choose, and so, fearing for her sister’s life, she draws his attentions onto herself and makes him choose her instead. Our storyteller is willing to sacrifice her life for her loved ones and expects nothing in return but she has learnt a lot from her family, her father and both her and her sister’s mothers, and she puts that knowledge to good use when she arrives at Lo-Melkhiin’s qasr.

Every morning when Lo-Melkhiin’s new wife wakes up, still alive, she has a little more hope. And with the countless prayers her sister, and all the females her father’s caravan meet on his travels, whisper to her shrine our storyteller becomes more powerful. She is able to, not only survive Lo-Melkhiin’s fire, but create something from nothing, able to bring forth fantastic creatures to strike at her husband.

“I would test the limits of what this strange power could do. I would call upon the prayers my sister offered at my shrine, and I would change what I saw fit to change.”

The three stories we are told – Lo-Melkhiin’s wife at the very centre, her sister seen through visions from across the desert, and the demon inhabiting Lo-Melkhiin’s mind – all come together by the end of the this novel. The story had a slow burn; setting up everything, introducing us to the characters and letting them grow and shape themselves before the ending. We see the quiet strength of Lo-Melkhiin’s new wife, who remains strong and dignified though she knows at any moment death may come for her in the form of her new husband, and across the desert we see her sister, who takes a tale whispered in the dark of a king who marries only to kill his wives and puts move the spotlight onto her sister. She creates an army from people’s fears and a smallgod from her sister’s memory.

…The Characters

“My sister is no fool and she is not tender-hearted,” I said. “My sister fights for her home, and takes what risks she must. That is why I put myself before her today—why I would not let you have her. My sister burns, and she does not burn for you.”

The bond between the two sisters was a major part of this story; they grew up together, best friends as well as sisters, and it’s easy to see the devotion they have for each other. Our storyteller believes her sister is the better one; more beautiful and more talented, more suited to remain with their father’s caravan and carry on their legacy. Lo-Melkhiin’s wife is an incredibly brave character; kind with a strong sense of loyalty and sharp wits which she believes will help her survive where none other has.

While our storyteller is willing to risk everything to keep her sister safe in turn her sister makes her a smallgod, giving her the strength and the power to survive Lo-Melkhiin. While Lo-Melkhiin’s wife tells him tales of her sister, her sister uses their own tale to inspire the common people to rise against Lo-Melkhiin and his tradition of killing their daughters or sisters. They spend most of the story apart but the strength the women have in this tale is not to be underestimated. The men burn bright but the women are smart, they stay silent and listen, waiting for the right moment to strike.

“I do fear him,” I said, which was close to the truth. “I fear him as I fear the desert sun and poisonous snakes. They are all part of the life I live. But the sun gives light, and snakes will feed a caravan if they are caught and cooked.”

We never truly find out what the demon inhabiting Lo-Melkhiin’s mind actually is but we see glimpses of him. He is a creature drawn to strength, power and artistry. He takes the greatest creators; weavers, coppersmiths and artisans, and uses them until they burn out. Before he wed his latest wife no other person had been able to survive his power and the longer she survives the more he turns his attention away from the men and onto the women, having forgotten they had gifts too. He believes he can offer his wife something the way he did to everyone else he’s taken, something that will bend her to his will.

…The Setting

“Already, the story is changing.
When men tell it in the souks and in the desert, they shape it to fit their understanding. It passes from caravan to caravan, to places where they have never heard of the one called Lo-Melkhiin. The words change language, and meaning is lost and gained in every vowel’s shift. They change the monster into a man, and they change her into something that can be used to teach a lesson: if you are clever and if you are good, the monster will not have you.
You should not believe everything you hear.”

I’m not going to claim to be an expert on the culture, mythology, or history of the world where this book is set, I haven’t read the original story this one was inspired by, but I loved the subtle details that were included describing the world that Lo-Melkhiin, his wife, and her sister make their lives. From the qasr; where Lo-Melkhiin’s wife dressed in the finest clothes, where the Skeptics and priests meet to view the shower of falling stars, and where the women gather to weave and spin fabric each and every day. To the desert; where their traditions have been passed down from father to son, where they have elaborate rituals to prepare their dead, where they create smallgods from the people in their family who have performed great deeds or made great sacrifices, and where they travel around to desert trading the vast land which could kill them at any given time. We saw the history of our storyteller, what she learnt from her father growing up, what she learnt along with her sister as they completed their chores, and what she was told about her ancestors which shaped her path. The magic in this book was never fully explained but in my mind it just made the story that much more magical. There was always an element of the unknown but it fit with the world and the characters created within the pages.


I hadn’t read the original tale this one was inspired by, but I think that helped. Instead of going into this story and comparing it with another I was able to judge it on its own merits. Honestly I loved this book; it was a perfect mixture of fantasy, love, sacrifice and family that came together to create a timeless story.

What did you think of A Thousand Nights? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

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34 thoughts on “A Thousand Nights

  1. I love this review! Once again, an amazing review! 🙂 you know exactly how I feel about this book, and how much I love it. I’m so glad you did too! I’m tempted to read it again, but there are so many books on my TBR haha. I think not having read the original actually works for this book, because you can appreciate the beauty of the story and the characters. That ending still makes me smile 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Fatima, I’m glad you enjoyed my review!
      Oh it’s an amazing book, honestly I forgot how much I loved it until I picked it up and started reading again. Plus the hardcover edition is gorgeous! Same actually, I think it’s one of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much, I wasn’t comparing it to the original story and could take it all on it’s own merits!
      God I am so so excited for the companion novel to be released! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know right! That hardcover!! ❤😍 I’m in love! I have this love/hate relationship with Lo-Melkhiin. Towards the end I really liked him though 😄
        Me too! Really looking forward to it!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Definitely! Although, to be honest, I sort of liked the djinn a little. He was so evil, it was brilliant. I was disgusted and fascinated haha.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What an amazing review! I think I was able to better grasp the premise of the book while being enticed by snippets of quotes here and there. I definitely will be adding this to my TBR list 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read this because I had heard quiet a few negative reason. However since I’ve been blogging I’ve been seeing so many positive ones so I decided to add it to my TBR. Seeing that you also loved it has definitely made me excited to read it! Great review, Beth 😊!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The first time I read this was back when it was first released so I didn’t really get a chance to see any of the negative reviews. But I’m the same actually, since I started blogging so many people have read and loved this book. It’s what inspired me to go back and re-read it! 😀
      In that case I really hope you love it as much as I did, I’m already excited to see your review! Thanks! ❤️

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  4. Oh this is such a great review! I’ve heard that it’s a lot better than The Wrath and the Dawn, but I don’t even know if a comparison really stands in that case. Anyways, I’m so glad you enjoyed it, and the world-building definitely seems good as well. might have to add this to my TBR 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Marie! 😀
      I try and avoid comparisons between TWATD and A Thousand Nights. Even though both are based on the same original tale everything else about them is completely different, even the genre (I’d say A Thousand Nights is more literary fiction than YA). Still I loved both of them, so hopefully if you pick up A Thousand Nights you will as well 😀
      Oh and the world-building was amazingly done! The setting and the magic were two of my favourite parts of this story because they were both so richly described! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I try never to compare two books, no matter how similar they may be. If they’re written by different authors it’s always best to take them on their own merits.
        If you love world-building I’m sure you’ll love A Thousand Nights! And I feel the same when I see your reviews, you’ve added so many books onto my to-read list! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! It is an amazing book, and yes I read TWATD and loved that one as well. 😀
      I’d be careful about comparisons though, while both books are based off the same original tale they are two completely different stories in every other way. There have been people I’ve seen who’ve loved A Thousand Nights but not enjoyed TWATD, and vise versa!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great review, Beth! I read this book last year, I think, and I quite enjoyed how beautiful the story was, though I felt like the plot took FOREVER to move forward.

    I actually feel like the book as a whole is more literary than YA and that it was a little bit mistakenly marketed as such, i.e. people who have read The Wrath and the Dawn, its more popular/mainstream cousin, and went into this one expecting the same kind of atmosphere would be quite disappointed. I did love the magic was more interesting here though – I really enjoyed the idea of the smallgods and how a person can become one. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Reg!
      Yeah I was the same actually; I read this book when it was first released but recently, because I saw loads of people reviewing it on WordPress, I had to go back and re-read it! I feel this book was more about the overall story, as in the characters rather than the plot, but I definitely agree with you it’s more literary than YA, though I see it with all the other YA books whenever I go into a bookstore.
      I actually read A Thousand Nights before TWATD, I’m not sure what I expected going into either book really but because they were so different to one another I was able to take them on their own merits rather than comparing one to the other. I think that’s kind of what you need to do with these because both are amazing books, just really different.
      Oh I loved the magic, especially at the end when she created all those new creatures from the desert ones! That was probably my favourite part! 😀

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      1. Yeah, I think it was just marketed as YA because it has quite typical elements – a young-ish protagonist, some sort of a romance, a love interest, magic, etc.

        That’s great that you’ve been able to do that! I picked this one up after TWATD expecting it to be quite similar in terms of pacing, but it was SO not, haha. I was still able to appreciate ATN as its own book, but I wonder how much more I would’ve enjoyed it if I didn’t compare it directly to TWATD, which to me ticks more boxes as far as reading for pleasure goes. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The age of the protagonist is never mentioned is it? But yeah I guess it’s a blend with YA elements and literary fiction elements as well. It’s a shame because there are probably people out there who’s love this book but will never pick it up because it’s marketed as YA and they won’t read that genre.
        I feel like there was a fair gap between me reading one and then reading the other! Which did help I won’t deny that but I wasn’t sure what to expect going into TWATD. After the first chapter, and seeing the different styles of each story, it became easier to judge them each on their own merits!
        Maybe try giving it a re-read later, let some of the details of TWATD slip from your mind and see if that helps. 😀

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      3. I don’t think it was ever mentioned… though I could’ve missed these things as I tend to do. Yeah, I think this book is a blend of YA and literary. Maybe something like YA literary? But I don’t think that’s a thing, not yet. 😛

        I might give it a reread! Tbh though while I enjoyed ATN I didn’t LOVE it, so it’s not very high on my reread list (or at all, that list is forever a work in progress) – I found the pacing way too slow for me in the first half of the book.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I don’t think it was either, but I think she was quite young, probably the age most YA protagonists are. YA literary would be a rare genre I think, this is the only book I’ve read to date that I feel would fit, but it’s a good description for A Thousand Nights!
        Oh especially when there are other new releases in your bookshelves you want to read for the first time right? 😀 I’ve never really been as bothered by slow pacing, as long as it’s filled with either character or world building (like pretty much everything V.E. Schwab has released), and not just slow for no reason! 🙂

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