9:00 am EDT, January 2, 2016

‘A Thousand Nights’ book review: A legend’s retelling gives voice to the nameless

Her sister was beautiful. She had a fire that could not be dimmed, a spirit that demanded to soar. She knew she needed to protect that. Above all else, she needed to ensure her sister would live.

Lo-Melkhin killed three hundred of his queens before arriving in her village, ready to pick his next bride. She knew he would pick her sister — she who was lovelier than the stars — so she tricked the fates to take her place, accepting the inevitable death that was sure to come.

And yet, day after miraculous day, she remained alive. It was love that was saving her, though it was not the love of a king as the stories say. It was the love of the nameless, the ones used to remaining in the shadows. And to a king, it was the love of mystery — a love no man as he was capable of giving.

A Thousand Nights

‘A Thousand Nights’ book review

Exquisitely written, A Thousand Nights is a book for people who enjoy challenging, beautiful prose. The author, E.K. Johnston, chose to keep all of the characters in the story nameless with the exception of the murderous king, Lo-Melkhin, and her choice is a clever device that really drives home the point of this book, which showcases a world in which women are left voiceless.

I’ll be perfectly honest and admit that this book was far too slow-paced for me. I did not enjoy it as the young adult fantasy it has been marketed as, but I would still recommend it as an intellectual exercise in learning to understand the mindset that millions, if not billions, of women around the world are forced to live with every day. For these women, life is lived and decisions are made for “the reasons of men,” and it’s heartbreaking to realize the powerlessness that is the reality of so many human beings.

Despite this realization, it’s inspiring to discover the ways in which the women within this narrative choose to create their own power. These clever, resourceful women manage to manipulate invisibility into a power in itself, and the book provides an insightful look that challenges the reader to think about the way HIStory has not only been made, but retold.

A Thousand Nights reads like a morality tale, and I think it is helpful, before one begins reading it, to think of it as such. The characters themselves are not complex, or even particularly interesting to try and understand. And yet, their simplicity in many ways almost made them feel more real to me. As slow-paced as their narratives were, I may not have enjoyed reading about these people, but I was forced to admit that I recognized them. Their dreams, their desires, and their struggles reminded me of my immigrant grandparents; people who’ve lived such lives of struggle that the promise of peace and contentment is more than enough.

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston is available now. Add it to your Goodreads list, or purchase it from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or Indiebound.

Will you read ‘A Thousand Nights’ by E.K. Johnston?

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