A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston, published by Macmillan Children's Books on 22nd October 2015
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 really looking forward to this book. A retelling of ‘A Thousand and One Nights’, I was expecting this to become a firm favourite. I’m always on the lookout for clever retellings of classic tales and from all the hype surrounding this title, I thought it sounded like exactly my kind of book. Although I had a proof copy, the finished cover art is absolutely gorgeous and would definitely make me pick this title up if I saw it in a bookshop. Sadly, for me, the contents didn’t match the packaging. I did finish this one but my attention had sorely wandered by the time that I came to the last page which is such a shame because I had high hopes for ‘A Thousand Nights’.
The story begins with an introduction to the character of Lo-Melkiin. He marries young girls and only ever picks one from each village or town, but none survive beyond sunrise. The nameless narrator of the story is certain that when he visits her village, he will choose her beautiful sister for his bride. Determined to stop this from happening, she makes herself look more attractive so that he will be drawn to choose her instead. I loved the way that she protected her sister from certain death at Lo-Melkiin’s hands and the way that the strength of the bond between the two siblings so obviously came across throughout the book.
After she becomes Lo-Melkiin’s wife, she stays alive by telling him stories at night, while suspecting that there is something dark living within him. I didn’t feel any chemistry between the two leads so the romance aspect of the story fell completely flat for me. I liked the fact that our heroine was courageous and brave and more than capable of standing alone but I also wanted her to have more of a drive to safe Lo-Melkiin because she felt some sort of love for him.
About a third of the way through the book, the story became very fantastical and there was a definite increase in the amount of magic and fantasy that was woven into the plot. I’m afraid this didn’t particularly appeal to me and it seemed to throw the story off-kilter.
I suspect that this is a book which some people will love but unfortunately I didn’t fall into that category. If my expectations hadn’t been so high at the start then I suspect I probably wouldn’t have persevered with finishing it.