Review: A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

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Goodreads | Waterstones

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.

I was so pleasantly surprised by this book. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it drew me in like I didn’t expect. This book is a retelling of One Thousand and One Nights, which I have never read but know the rough story of, so I had some idea of what to expect. Having the simple backing plot of the fairytale drew me in and kept me interested, and but the magic that sparked in the pages of this book made it stand out.

The narrator, who remains unnamed, I really loved reading about. She has a strength and fire and I really appreciated her as a female narrator. Even though this book is naturally sexist and shows women to be ‘lower’ than men, she has an amazing voice.

“I do fear him,” I said, which was close to the truth. “I fear him as I fear the desert sun and poisonous snakes.

The plot was slow burning, but it felt insignificant as most of the plot had already been laid out with it being a retelling. The pace picked up towards the end and offered a big payoff for reading the slower parts. I really enjoyed the slower parts too though, and the detailing of the palace where the narrator spends most of the story shined through. I appreciated the minute detailing of the surroundings, as it made the story enchanting and encompassing.

The King was a spiteful character, but his development throughout the story was so interesting and kept me on my toes as I never knew how to feel about him. The rest of the cast of characters were also brilliant, and the narrators sister I just adored. One conversation between her and her sister really stood out.

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.”

Overall, this was quite an enchanting story that drew me in. The writing and plot were simple, which unfortunately led me to rate this lower than I would have liked. I also really enjoyed the magical elements, but they could be confusing in their descriptions, which is another factor that went towards a lower rating. Aside from this, I really enjoyed the book and it was an interesting twist on a classic story.

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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