My Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS. 100% RECOMMENDED!
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.
While there’s a great deal of things in this book worth both love and attention, what I enjoyed most about it was the beautiful writing style. It’s not only lyrical, but also incredibly, incredibly fluid, each sentence flowing easily into the next and the next until the chapters simply slip beneath your fingertips.
Beyond the writing, I absolutely must commend Johnston for the depth she lent her protagonist, a character we, as readers, know only as “Lady Bless”. She’s a strong, inquisitive, and passionate girl whose love for her sister not only defines her, but drives her. She’s fearless, even in the face of certain death and impossible odds; she’s loving, even in a world where no one will meet her eye; and she’s wickedly, wickedly powerful, in a way that not only surprises her, but the readers as well.
In terms of the plot, there seemed to be en equal amount of time spent on the past as the present, but Johnston weaves these two halves of her story together with both precision and delicacy. Through the protagonist’s memories, you come to love not only her sister, her father, her mothers, and her community, you also come to love the desert she’s lived in all her life, the sand that you feel brushing up against your feet, and the hot sun that you feel baring down on your back. Through her eyes, you fall in love with the world of Lo-Melkhiin, the man he used to be and the man he might become again; you fall in the love with the servants who refuse to let their “Lady Bless” go down without a fight, and the mother of the monster you don’t expect to still be strong. Every character you meet throughout the story pulls at your heartstrings, brought to life effortlessly by the rich world Johnston has created. You want the best for everyone the protagonist interacts with, no matter the cost.
There’s a beautiful, beautiful world trapped behind the pages of A Thousand Nights, and I don’t think I could recommend it more. The pacing is quick, without a single dull moment throughout the book; the characters come alive before your eyes, demanding love and support that you offer up both easily and willingly; the plot is full of surprises, sometimes quiet, sometimes subtle, and sometimes fierce enough to set the sky on fire. It’s a beautiful read, worth every letter in every word on every page. It’s a story you should absolutely not miss out on experiencing.