Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Review: A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston

Publication Date: October 22nd 2015
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Length: 256 pages

Thanks to Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

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.

See that blurb? That gargantuan blurb? That is basically the novel. In fact that would be the novel if it picked up the pace. I was so excited after reading ‘The Wrath and the Dawn’ earlier this year to see another take on the 1001 nights story, and this looked like it was going to fill that want perfectly.
However for me, it sadly falls far short of the mark.

It’s a very long winded re-telling which relies on the lyrical prose to carry everything along. Unfortunately I never really got swept away by the prose, so I just ended up feeling frustrated and bored. I kept putting this book down and forcing myself to come back to it.

No character is named, only Lo-Melkhiin, and I did like the mystery of it and how it gave the story an older, more traditional fable like feel. However at the same time it bogs the narrative down further (‘my father’s father’s father’ gets old real quick) and doesn’t allow you to actually connect with any of the characters. I never really felt for them, never cared for them and without that connection the entire story seems to disintegrate.

I also really struggled with the romance, point being that there was none and yet we were served a neat romance wrapped up with a pretty bow at the end. Where was the development and build up? There was nothing. Our heroine never actually has any interaction with the real Lo-Melkhiin so how can we as the reader convincingly believe the love between the two of them? It left me feeling confused and frustrated and felt as though some sort of crucial character points and scenes had been left out.

The final straw for me is that the pacing is truly abysmal. Nothing happens for the majority of the novel – we see build up and discovery of our heroine’s magic, but that isn’t enough to sustain a novel. Then the climax springs up out of nowhere, no real build up or time to feel like it’s deserved in the last twenty pages. After a novel of nothing, suddenly with twenty pages to go we have a battle, and then everything is done. There’s no real exploration, it’s just over and it feels thoroughly bizarre and frustrating.

I wanted to love this book, I wanted to be swept away by the unique style and lyrical prose, but sadly the idea just cannot be carried by the execution. It dragged to read and I never really felt caught by the idea, never felt fully immersed in the story, and as a result never really enjoyed it.

1 comment:

  1. Strangely, I liked it.

    We have such similar blog names.

    A.S. Damea @