A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

Received from NetGalley for review.

A Thousand Nights is a (supposed) Young Adult take on the One Thousand and One Nights, and it is very well done. The author’s reminaged story is woven with skill and care, and the story itself is slow and subtle, weaving in elements of the original story alongside the unnamed narrator’s fierce love and protection of her sister and people.

I don’t think it sits well within the Young Adult label, though, as it is so subtly and cleverly done. Obviously younger people are capable of reading literary works that are subtle and clever, but when I compare this book to others of the genre it just doesn’t sit right – I found the story to be very slow going, and whilst I could appreciate the beauty of the writing it did become quite boring, which I think will work against it if it’s marketed as Young Adult.

Now, onto the story itself:

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to my village looking for a wife.

Most of us know the original story in some way, and in this version the unnamed narrator becomes the first girl who survives for days, and then weeks. Most of the story is told from her perspective, but we soon learn that there is a dark force within the desert that has taken possession of Lo-Melkhiin. The narrator is able to survive against this dark force because Lo-Melkhiin senses something different about her; unlike the other girls, she is not afraid, not in the way that others are.

“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.”

She has sacrificed herself for her sister and is resigned to her fate, and it is this that makes her so powerful against the demon within Lo-Melkhiin. She has her own kind of power, her own magic, and is able to protect herself and the other women around her. There is a wonderful feeling of feminism throughout the book, subtly woven throughout the story, as although the women may not have complete control or equality, they are strong and good to each other. The friendships amongst the women are wonderful to read, especially between the narrator and her sister, and they all support and help each other; it made a wonderful change to read something without any bitchiness or competition between the women.

A Thousand Nights is a powerful story about love and friendship and sacrifice, and I know that many people will enjoy it immensely; it is an incredibly clever story, with rich, fluid writing and beautiful descriptions. Personally, I found it too slow; there is very little action for the most part as it focuses more on the unnamed narrator’s survival, but it is still an incredibly well written book, and I did enjoy reading it.

Read: October 31st-November 14th 2015

3/5 stars


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