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I Belong


Review: A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

A Thousand NightsTitle: A Thousand Nights

Author: E.K. Johnston

Genre: YA Fantasy

Series: N/A

Publication Date: October 6, 2015

Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages

ISBN-10: 1484722272 (Disney)

ISBN-13: 978-1484722275 (Disney)

Reviewed by: Zed

Synopsis:

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.

Quick & Dirty: A simple read with a powerful message.

Opening Sentence: We do not know why we came from the sea to this hard and dusty earth, but we know that we are better than it.

Excerpt: No

The Review:

Just look at this book’s cover – it’s beautiful! The colour combination is gorgeous and I love the Arabian feel it gives. Since the story is set in the desert, the cover sets the tone for the book nicely.

The story is told from a young girl’s point of view in very simple words but the messages throughout hold a lot of power. The sisters share a close bond, such that one gives her life up for the other, and the other in return builds a living shrine for her and essentially transforms her sister into a ‘smallgod’.

“I am not you,” I said to her. I was not bitter. She had never made me feel the lesser, and she had only scorn for those who did.
“That is true,” she said. “And men will lack the imagination to see us as separate beings. For that I am sorry.”
“I am not,” I told her, and I was not, “for I love you more than I love the rain.”

I just realised that through the entire book I can’t recall her name being revealed. Everyone referred to her in different ways: Lady-bless, sister, daughter of my heart, but no one used her actual name. Even the synopsis doesn’t mention her name. Since the story is told in first person, the use of her name, or lack thereof, went unnoticed by me. In fact, most of the characters’ names weren’t revealed and rather than confusing things it made it a lot simpler because the reader doesn’t have to match names to a relationship. They were simply: mother, brother, father, maid etc. The only characters with names were:

  • Lo Melkhiin – the king possessed by a demon
  • Firh Stonetouched – his surname was given to him by the king due to his talent at carving stone
  • Sokath, His Eyes Uncovered – is one of the ‘skeptics,’ which I believe is another name for scientist

Small villages and encampments can spare folk to tend to the bones of the dead and the altars of the smallgods,but they cannot always spare a man to do nothing but think, no matter how great his thoughts. I had never met a Skeptic, and tonight I would.

Although the magic and power she has is bizarre, it sounds so real. First I was wondering how is it that she only realised she has this magic once she marries Lo Melkhiin? But as the story progressed I realised that the power she wields is all thanks to her family, especially her sister. Smallgods and their shrines are only created for the dead but because her sister created one for her whilst she was living, the resulting prayers create a special kind of magic. The more people that hear about her courage in taking her sister’s place and managing to survive, the more they pray to the living smallgod and subsequently, the greater the power she has. It still sounds weird but it makes far more sense than her uncovering this magic all of a sudden, plus it emphasises the bonds of her family.

Although she knows that all Lo Melkhiin’s other wives die very quickly, some lasting just a few days, she has no idea what kills them. Each night the girl thinks she will die and the following morning she’s shocked to have survived. She’s clearly afraid of his power but hides it well. Her determination was inspiring because each day she wills herself to survive another. Death might be an easier way out but she knows that once she dies, the demon will go after her sister and other innocent girls and she can’t let that happen. The demon within Lo Melkhiin is cruel, selfish and power-hungry and I thought he was the perfect villain for this tale.

She was not of my kind, yet there was some power to her that was not human, not quite. She did not die, and I wondered if I might at last have found a queen for whom I could set the desert on fire.

Although there are evil demons and a fair amount of fighting in A Thousand Nights, I found it to be a calming read. The writing is beautiful and there are many underlying messages within this story. Most importantly for me was her philosophical nature; it created a sort of trance whilst I was reading, reminiscent of a classic fairytale with a happy ending.

Notable Scene:

I feared that Lo-Melkhiin, the true one, had been locked so long inside a monster that he would be a monster himself, even if the demon were driven away. We had a demon for a king already; I did not wish to replace him with another.

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FTC Advisory: Disney/Hyperion provided me with a copy of A Thousand Nights. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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