Tuesday, 6 October 2015

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

A Thousand Nights
E.K. Johnston
Disney Hyperion
[October 6, 2015]
ARC from BEA

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.

I love the story of A Thousand and One Nights and the uptick in retellings of it have been wonderful for me. But it's also a bit nerve wracking to see so many come out so closely together - they need to each be wonderful in their own right and it's always worrying that they won't be.

A Thousand Nights is a beautifully written, incredibly women-centric retelling of the story and I couldn't have loved it more.

The writing is absolutely stunning - hypnotizing, really. I was blown away by how E.K. Johnston spun her words and I'm already eagerly anticipating her next books. I read this book during BEA with the intent to finish and pass it on to somebody else and had no issue becoming absorbed while on the show floor. That's how good she is. And really, anything getting read during BEA is a bit of a miracle in itself.

I had some concerns when I started out because Lo-Melkhiin is really the only character who gets a name. Only having one character have a name, and having that character be "the bad guy", isn't exactly a promising start, you know? But throughout the book, Johnston turns that on his head. He may be the only character with a proper name, but he is soon shown not to be the most powerful.

In fact, the book is rather feminist. It's touch upon in the summary about how the main character and her sister both begin using magic while she's in captivity, but I don't want to spoil anything else. I will say, that women play and their power and their abilities and their "roles" play an incredibly important part in how the story plays out and I nearly swooned at how perfect it was.

So, if you're in love with retellings of A Thousand and One Nights, or if you just like feminist reads, I would rather strongly recommend picking this one up this week.

--Julie

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