Friday, July 24, 2015

A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston

Lo’Melkhiin was once a good man in this story without names. His three-hundredth-and-first bride was acquired like all the rest: presented to him by a village in a line up of all marriageable women in their wadi. None of his brides had lasted more than a handful of nights, and, in an attempt to save her beautiful sister from a sure death, Lo’Melkhiin’s newest bride clothed herself in her sister’s finest, purple dishdashah, an intricately embroidered dress meant for a happy wedding, and made herself known to him without fear.

 She’s now been taken away to his qasr, the elaborate palace he calls home, and must stay strong and unaffected as her strange, cold husband visits her each night to hold her hands, to take her strength, to pull away her power, and accidentally leave some of his own to settle and grow.

 As his bride discovers a new magic within through traditional feminine activities, gathering strength from the women around her as she spins and weaves and longs for her home, there is a shift. This man who is now her husband matches every horrendous claim that’s been cast. Despite his cruelty, though, he feeds his horse by his own hand, he cares for his mother with her odd lion’s mane of hair, and there is spot of sleeping darkness in his mind that his new bride cannot seem to ignore.

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston is as unique in as many ways as it is familiar. It’s a story of female strength in the face of adversity and the importance of patience. Most people are aware of the bones that make up the skeleton of this story. A mad king, a legendarily long string of, let’s say, unsuccessful unions, a marriage to someone unplanned, a struggle for control. Although it differs from the principal One Thousand and One Nights tale, there are many things that will still ring true from the original telling.

A Thousand Nights
reminded me, in some ways, of one of my favorite childhood books, East by Edith Pattou, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. To me, the writing felt a bit formal at times, as if the author was trying to converse with the reader the way someone would around a campfire in a land where you might not know the language. I think there is a great advantage to this style of writing in that it can be very immersive even if it is not my personal preference.

Similarly, there were many things within the book that I felt were expanded on extensively while somewhat ignoring the mystical and political portions of the story, which, to me, were the book’s greatest strengths. There were creative and romantic elements tacked on at the end and throughout the book that I would have loved to learn about in the same detail we learned about the bride’s relationships and history.

 That said, the relationships in the book, especially the trust forged in the qasr between the bride and the women workers and Skeptics in Lo’Melkhiin’s employ were wonderful. Many times when reading a book, I feel there’s not enough history to hold up the integrity of the characters. A Thousand Nights is not one of those stories. If you enjoy background information, family stories and history, you will relish the level of attention that Johnston has paid to these subjects.

 I really enjoyed A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston. I thought it was an excellent retelling of one of my favorite stories, and I would encourage you to find it once it comes to its full audience on October 22nd of this year. It is currently available for pre-order in hardcover and Kindle.

 I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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