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A Thousand Nights Hardcover – October 6, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—This work explores the setting and central characters from the classic Arabian Nights: Tales from One Thousand and One Nights, adding a mystical backstory for why the Prince kills his 300 wives but spares the Storyteller. In this retelling, the unnamed heroine sacrifices herself for her sister, the most beautiful girl in her village, when the Prince comes to claim a new bride. When her sister builds a shrine to make her a small god, the protagonist finds that she can weave more than just stories, and as her time in the Prince's court grows longer, she finds her powers growing unexpectedly strong. The protagonist continues to survive thanks to the tales she spins every night and begins to discover the true nature of her husband's "possession." She uses this knowledge and her burgeoning abilities to overthrow the demon and his kin when they converge on her village to stop the growing rebellion led by her family. The author creates a mystical fantasy world set under a hot desert sun using an elegant, traditional storytelling style. However, the characters are not as well drawn as the landscape, and readers may not find themselves invested in their individual story lines. The plot draws to a very abrupt, predictable end. Teens who love the fantasy genre will be drawn into the world created here but may be disappointed by the story that takes place in it. VERDICT Not as strong an offering as Renée Ahdieh's The Wrath and the Dawn (Putnam, 2015).—Sunnie Scarpa, Wallingford Public Library, CT
"A story threaded with shimmering vibrance and beauty, A Thousand Nights will weave its spell over readers' hearts and leave them captivated long after the final tale has been told."―Alexandra Bracken, New York Times best-selling author of The Darkest Minds series
"This is an unexpected gem of a book about storytelling, magic, and relationships, and romance buffs in particular will find the conclusion immensely satisfying, as hard-won, gradual love has a chance to flourish once the wicked force has been defeated."―The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"A powerful read."―Publishers Weekly
* "Detailed and quiet, beautifully written with a literary rhythm that evokes a sense of oral tale-telling, this unexpected fantasy should not be missed."―Kirkus Reviews, starred review
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Top Customer Reviews
Basically, the story is a reimagining of A Thousand and One Nights, and centers around a girl (who is never given a name) who takes her sister’s place and weds an evil king. The king marries one bride from each village and they all die, normally after one night. But the girl lives and keeps on living, because she tells beautiful stories to her captor. Inspirational, right? It might have been, except literally this entire story is a slow, drawn out monologue on the boring parts of this character’s life, and she never actually got around to telling any of these beautiful, entrancing stories. To summarize, here are some things this character does:
- Weaves things
- Has dreams and visions that come true. Repeatedly. (The novelty of this wore off after the first time.)
- Talks about her village
- Remembers things about her village
- Worries about her sister
- Has her hair done
- Talks about goats
- Does some random, unexplained but super helpful magic (??)
- Weaves some more
And of course, there’s some intrigue mixed in to keep you reading: How did Lo-Melkhiin become possessed by this demon? Will he ever be free? How will the girl escape from him?
Listen, I love me some magical realism. It’s my thing. But if that magic isn’t ever explained, or if it has a really flimsy explanation, I’m instantly turned off. The girl gets her powers from the prayers of her people, who believe her to have become a smallgod. So when she weaves a tale, the tale comes true. It’s an interesting premise, but the execution was so slow and boring that I could not hold my interest for long. It took me like two weeks to finish this, which is ridiculous for a short, easy-to-digest YA book.
The girl is a good heroine, of course. She’s brave, she’s strong, she’s calm in the face of danger and fear, she sacrifices herself to save those she loves. And I think these qualities are some of the reasons this book has so many fans. But is a strong female character really enough to carry a book? I don’t think so. If it had been flipped and the protagonist were a young man, I have a feeling this book would have bored a lot of its readers. Simply the presence of a strong female character seems to be enough for some people, but it wasn’t for me. I was bored to tears.
Another issue for me is that I had figured a vast majority of my issues with this book would be explained in the sequel (which I’m not going to read), but apparently the sequel is set generations in the future. So all of those questions I had are probably never going to be answered. Maybe I missed something vital in the reading of this, but it was just incomprehensible for me.
"A horse can get you somewhere quickly, but you cannot carry very much with you. A camel will take its time, but it will also carry your house if you ask it nicely enough."
The narrator has such a beautiful, well-thought-out voice. The fact that the only (main) character given a name is Lo-Melkhiin only adds to this feeling. It seems strange that this is the case, for as the book goes on, it certainly feels like you know the characters quite well. But their names are never revealed.
"But I would rather be patient and learn things in their own time, than force knowledge where it causes destruction."
The family dynamic was… interesting?
Obviously, the characters in this book live in a very different society than we do today. Her father has two wives, and she does talk about her sister’s mother quite often, and fondly, although she is closer to her own mother. Her father has only spoken to her and her sister a few times, and it is not very obvious to them whether he loves them for a good part of their lives. However, the whole (tribe? clan? I don’t remember!) tribe spends time together and works together. It makes for a very interesting dynamic and feel to the relationships in the book, and it was rather difficult for me to relate to. I was never really sure whether the multiple wives were happy? I hope so!
“Men pray in the morning and in the evening,” I said to him. “In the heat of the day, they speak to one another. They trade and they talk and they drink cool water. “Women pray waking and walking and working,” I said to him. “They pray with the spindle’s drop and the shuttle’s shift. They weave their words into the warp and the weft of the cloth they make, and they send that cloth out into the world where everyone can see it, and remark upon its beauty.” “That would wake the dead,” said Sokath, His Eyes Uncovered. His voice was breathless with awe. “I cannot imagine what it would do to the living.” “To a living woman,” I said to him. “To a woman who saved a sister who loved her,” he said to me. “And saved all the other girls in her village. And came to the qasr. And did not die in the night.“
Originally posted on Bursting with Books.