Format: E-Galley, 336 pages
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
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.
"You've been fighting a war since you decided to take your sister's place. Only keep fighting it now, and we shall see who stands at the end - demons or smallgods."
A Thousand Nights is the apparent retelling of Arabian Nights (One Thousand and One nights). A story that I have long ago forgotten with age, and the number of books I read every year. This story is bizarre to say the least. The only person in the entire book who has a name is the big bad villain, Lo-Melkhiim who found himself possessed by a dangerous demon and now demands a wife from each village under his control. Everyone else, including the narrator, uses terms like sister, or father of my heart, or mother of my heart to refer to family. In a way, I liked this because it gives the reader a break from keeping track of all the characters that Johnston introduces. And, yes, I do in fact keep track of all characters.
So, from this point forward, I shall call our narrator Lady Bless to keep things straight. She's the common desert girl who is taken away from her home, voluntarily to protect her sister the most desirable one, and becomes queen. We can call this maneuver the old bait and switch in order to fool the villain into believing he got who he came for. She is the girl who stands up to Lo-Melkhiim and survives somehow. What is interesting about Lady Bless, is that upon meeting her new husband, there is a magical connection and no, it not instant-lust. It is a connection that grows, as well as Lady Blessed powers. It gives her hope, which the previous 300 wives of Lo-Melkhiim never had because they were killed quickly.
Lady Bless is definitely a witty, and brave character. She finds allies, and connections throughout the qasr (desert castle), including those who are skeptics, weavers, and yes, even the mother of Lo-Melkhiim. Even her family doesn't completely give up on her, and fights to get her back. Interestingly enough, the main character's name IS mentioned but not until the final page. Again, this technique is highly unusual, and a reader needs to learn some patience when reading the story itself. I have to say that it takes a whole lot of courage, and determination to stick to ones guns and not name ANY character in this entire story.
I think one of the more fascinating aspects of this story, is that the author actually researched desert conditions by traveling to Jordan. I love when authors add realism in the middle of a fantasy novel. I love that she doesn't skip over the harshness of the desert living, but accepts that desert dwellers have lived this way since the beginning of time. I do like that Johnston creates a battle between demons and what she calls small gods. I would have loved to learn more about how Lady Bless came into her powers, and how these demons really were. I would have also loved to see her use them to make her people better off.
**I received this book for free from (Publisher) via (NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**