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.
I’m surprised another retelling of The Arabian Nights came out this year, with the first being the much-loved The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. I absolutely loathe comparing books together, so I read A Thousand Nights with as little bias as I could. It turns out I didn’t really need to, because both books take different paths with its retelling. Although I enjoyed the atmosphere of A Thousand Nights and the beautifully-woven magical elements, I didn’t connect to the world as much as I had hoped.
One of my problems with the book was the fact that the only name we know is Lo-Melkhiin. I don’t recall learning the characters of the narrator or her sister. I get that it’s a style thing, but definitely not for me. It’s like one of those cool clothing designs that people sell on Etsy; some people absolutely ADORE them, and others are indifferent. I’m the latter with where Johnston was going with this book. Although I do appreciate the unique concept!
The narrator’s characterization as very well-developed. The relationship she has with her sister is really shown through the small things they do throughout the book. I really enjoyed how both sisters complement each other, even though the narrator reiterates that her sister is the loveliest girl in the village.
“In most things, from weaving to cooking to spearing the poisonous snakes that came to our well, we were equal. My voice was better at the songs and stories our traditions gave us, but my sister could find her own words to say, and did not rely on the deeds of others to make her point.”
Her feelings about Lo-Melkhiin also develops in a realistic way. There isn’t much of a romance in this book. In fact, I would say that 3% of the book is romance. That was okay with me though, because it focused more on character introspection if anything. The narrator is provided a picture of a monster who has killed three hundred girls, but the man she sees is different from what people say… sometimes.
“What sort of man could have so much blood on his hands that he could choose a wife within moments of seeing her, and know that she would soon be added to the litany of the dead, but would call a halt on the ride home to spare the horses?”
What makes this interesting is that this is a story of survival. The narrator has to find a way to keep herself alive, and Lo-Melkhiin himself is trying to survive in his own way. The fantasy element plays a huge role in this. I love the back story that Johnston gave to correspond with the Arabian Nights aspects. It’s definitely intriguing and the background is 100% original from the tale it derived from. In this world, there is not only magic but also demons and creatures that will leave you gaping.
“‘You have been fighting a war since you devided to take your sister’s place. Only keep fighting it now, and we shall see who stands at the end – demons or smallgods.'”
The main character finds strength through unlikely circumstances, and takes on the villain not with kickass moves, but quiet and subtle magic. I like my fantasy books to be wild and adventurous, and this one was more tame compared to others. The book is certainly filled with magical aspects, but I would have also liked to see a bit more action.
I came for the gorgeous cover and intriguing blurb, I stayed for the stunning setting and bewitching magic.