by EK Johnston
Review by KM
I originally requested this book because I loved the summary and the cover was gorgeous. I truthfully had heard of One Thousand and One Nights before, but I didn’t know much about the original and I’ve never read it. Having wiki’d it now, I can see that this is clearly a retelling. I’m happy to have read A Thousand Nights, if only for the fact that it’s introduced me to the original, which I can’t wait to read.
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.
Now, if any of the aspects I love completely are derived from the original, pardon me. I’ve already said how I haven’t read it yet.
The main character in this story isn’t given a name. In fact, no one except Lo-Melkhiin is giving a name. They’re referred to by titles: Lo-Melkhiin’s mother, my sister, my sister’s mother, my mother, my father’s father’s father, and et cetera. Originally, I thought that this was clever. It reminded me of how stories would be passed down orally and become legends, to the point that the characters lose their names. Now, a week after reading it, I kind of feel like the lack of a name robbed her. She was to be a smallgod. If any character in the book should have been given a name, it should have been her.
She was strong as a character, taking her strength from how she protected her sister and from her inner magic. The magical parts had to be the best out of the entire book. By using traditionally feminine crafts, she was able to harness a power that not even Lo-Melkhiin could grasp.
A few other reviews have complained about the lack of romance between Lo-Melkhiin and the main character. I actually appreciated that it didn’t have that romance. The main character had nothing to go on except proclamations from Lo-Melkhiin’s mother that he was indeed, a good man. How is a person supposed to fall in love with that, especially when the horrible actions done were done by the same body? Had there been an instant romance, I wouldn’t have bought it.
Overall, I love to see an Asian story get a retelling; it stands out among all the Wizard of Oz and Cinderella ones on the bookshelves.