Author: E.K. Johnston
Type: Fantasy, Young Adult, Retelling
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Disclaimer: I received an advanced e-galley of A Thousand Nights from NetGalley and the publisher, Disney Book Group in exchange for an honest review.
In E.K. Johnston’s retelling of the classic 1001 Arabian Nights, in order to save her sister from becoming the next victim of the ruler Lo-Melkhiin who has already murdered three hundred girls, the unnamed narrator takes ensures that she will be chosen as the next bride by making herself more beautiful than her sister. Having been selected by Lo-Melkhiin, the narrator travels with him and his guards to the royal palace where she must find a way to survive each night so as not to become yet another in a long line of murdered brides. As in the original 1001 Arabian Nights, the narrator tells the emperor stories each night and over time the emperor becomes more and more intrigued with this young girl from the dessert, that he finds himself allowing her to live another day in order to try and understand what exactly it is about her that prevents him from wanting to kill her.
As the narrator spends her days wandering the palace and working with other women in the sewing room, she comes to realize that something happened to the emperor that has caused him to become the kind of man who kills without remorse. With this newfound awareness about the emperor, our narrator further behind to understand the startingly unexpected new power she has developed to make changes to those around her who have been affected by the evil of the emperor. Things finally come to a head at the wedding of the narrator’s sister, for it is at the wedding that good and evil are pitted against one another in a battle for the very soul of the emperor and those he presides over.
I found E.K. Johnston’s retelling of 1001 Arabian Nights to be both thoroughly enjoyable and engaging. From the beginning of the story when the unnamed narrator dresses herself up so that the emperor will see and choose her over her sister, to the climactic battle between man and demon at her sister’s wedding, I was hooked and found it difficult to step away from the book to complete other tasks, such as work. From the vivid imagery and beautifully crafted wording, I couldn’t help but find myself invested in the story and its characters. I found myself craving a need to continue reading late into the night, and at times even waking up in the middle of the night, in order to continue my reading so as to find out what happened next and how everything turned out in the end.
Not only did I love the story the reader is told about what happened to Lo-Melkhiin when he went into the desert to hunt an elusive lion, but I loved how the author incorporated both myth and folklore to create this story. The author did such an amazing job of painting the picture of what was happening, that not only could I picture everything vividly in my mind, but I felt as though I was watching a movie in my mind.
This is the kind of story I would highly recommend to anyone who loves retellings, especially ones that fall into the fantasy realm; and to anyone who is looking for a fascinating and engaging read.