A Thousand Nights – E.K. Johnston – Disney Hyperion – Published 6 October 2015
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.
This is a clever and beautiful story, spun out of simple story threads and woven together to create a rich tapestry that sings.
When King Lo-Melkhiin’s group travels to her town, she knows that he will hardly resist the beauty of her sister, and that in being chosen as his bride her sister will go to her death, just like so many girls before her. And so, she does what she can by offering herself in her sister’s place. At the King’s qasr she is stunned to survive not only the first night, but each that follows. As she spins her stories, her power grows and with it her knowledge of the castle and the people within it, as well as Lo-Melkhiin himself and what plagues him.
This book reminded me of Gail Carson Levine’s fairytale retellings, particularly Ever, in the way it was written and the great layers of depth to the story. Gail Carson Levine is one of my favourite authors and, in my opinion, the writer of the best fairytale retellings, so that is some compliment. Continue reading