Ahoy there me mateys!
a thousand nights (E.K. Johnston)
This also was one of the ports I wanted to plunder. And it was even better than the initial sighting suggested. This novel is a beautiful retelling of the “Arabian Nights” stories and folktales. Now I have only read a few snippets of the English translation of these stories and have always wanted in the back of my mind to explore them all. Alas, I have not done so. The main storyline of Scheherazade telling stories for 1,001 nights to save herself from death has always been an interesting concept to me. A woman using the strength of her intelligence and inner beauty to save herself. I do so love strong woman characters and many of the Arabian Night stories have filtered down through the years into western fairy tales that I love.
This novel does not disappoint at all. This version was full of rich detail and character. It lured me in with its magic and enchanted me from beginning to end. I lost all track of time while delving into this story. Unlike many of the 1,001 tales, women are the central focus of this tale. They are strong, capable, smart, and have inner beauty. The bond between the sisters in the novel is especially strong and the plot intertwined with it. There are points of view from the king’s perspective but they only enhance the story further.
One of the more interesting details of this book is that only the evil king is officially named. He goes by the name of Lo-Melkhiin. All other characters are called by their relationship to the narrator. For example “sister’s mother” or “Lady-bless.” This enriched the novel and added to its otherworldly feeling.
The desert setting is beautiful and startling in its descriptions. There was beauty in the telling of the qasr, henna, weaving, religion, fountains, etc. I loved the goats vs. sheep references. Whatever the author touched seemed to glow with its own inner light and be improved therein. Every detail seemed carefully chosen and was seemingly perfect. The story seems simple when broken down but when you look at the novel overall it is simply of gem of richness and depth . . . as though it too is one of the old folk tales itself.
There is going to be a companion novel and I will definitely read it. If you have not read this one then go get it and be enthralled.
A more elegant examination of the cultural aspects of this novel can be found at Christina Reads YA’s Amazon review here.
The author has this to say about the novel:
Set against a bright desert backdrop, this epic fantasy retelling of The Arabian Nights pits the designs of common girl against the schemes of a murderous king, and the bond between two sisters against the dark temptation of power beyond measure.
Lo-Melkhin killed three hundred girls before he came to my village looking for a wife . . .
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