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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
Top customer reviews
"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.
Rating: 4/5 stars
A Thousand Nights is a retelling of the original classic One Thousand and One Nights, also known as Arabian Nights. I had pretty low expectations going into this, mainly due to a lower Goodreads rating and people talking about how it pales to The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. Despite that, I had a lot of fun reading this book overall – I thought it was a fantastic retelling.
I loved the deeper meanings that were weaved into the story, as well as the beautiful, atmospheric writing. Although I enjoyed the story, I thought that the ending was too rushed. I would’ve liked the ending to be prolonged, or for there to have been an epilogue. There were also parts throughout the book that were dense and confused me, which had me going back to re-read paragraphs. These aspects therefore had me taking one star off of my rating. However, I had a great time reading the book as a whole and I would definitely recommend it.
You don’t need to be familiar with the original One Thousand and One Nights to enjoy this book. That being said, I think you would appreciate this story more knowing the premise of the original. That’s because this retelling spins the original story into one that focuses more on the strength of women, and I loved that – the original story was written hundreds of years ago, so women were really taken for granted back then. This book twists the original story to illustrate the true importance of women.
No one in the book has a name except for the king, Lo-Melkhiin. There are many women introduced, but none of them give their names – not even the protagonist. Women are continuously referred to as “her,” “the mother,” “the sister,” “the woman,” etc. This strengthens the theme of women being unfortunately invisible in the culture; however, the actions of the women belies that seeming unimportance. In addition to the poetic writing, this anonymity of women in the book gives the story a mysterious atmosphere.
The author paints beautiful scenes, and the magic aspect in the story is fascinating. This book has made me absolutely yearn to visit a desert at night. In addition to the vivid imagery, there’s a strong fairy tale vibe because of the magic and how certain scenes played out. However, that “fairy tale” is executed in a mature manner. The story was darker than I had anticipated, and there’s also some fairly monotonous chapters that many young adult readers may not be accustomed to. As I was reading, I was continuously questioning why the book was classified as young adult.
This book reads more like a literary work than a typical young adult book, so that initially caught me off-guard. There are messages conveyed through the story told, so that understandably paves a path for a slower read. Some parts feels drawn out, and I sometimes found myself wondering when something would actually happen. However, I realized later that even the slow scenes in the book were significant. Therefore, the slow pace in the book actually turned out to be something that I enjoyed and appreciated.
There’s not a focus on romance in this book, and I loved that. I found it refreshing because I’ve been recently reading so many young adult novels with insta-love, love triangles, and unrealistic relationships. It was nice reading a story where the protagonist wasn’t basing her decisions off of love, but for the greater good. I therefore believe that this lack of an typical romance was why the book isn’t as highly rated on Goodreads. It also doesn’t help that there was another One Thousand and One Nights retelling released the same year.
As of now, I haven’t read The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, so I can’t accurately comment on the differences yet, but I think that a big reason this book was rated so much lower on Goodreads was because of A Thousand Nights isn’t what young adult readers expect, unlike The Wrath and the Dawn. From the general gist I have of The Wrath and the Dawn, it has more of an in-depth romance and a plot that makes the reader swoon. Therefore, going from The Wrath and the Dawn to reading this book can be unappealing for readers, especially if they’re expecting something more romantically immersive. Don’t get me wrong – A Thousand Nights is definitely an immersive read. It just isn’t focused on romance like a lot of young adult novels are.
I’d highly recommend this to people who love the classic One Thousand and One Nights, as well as people who enjoy reading retellings without the added whimsical romance. Although there’s a slower pace than typical in young adult novels, this story is still captivating and entertaining. I felt like I was reading a fairy tale for adults. There was that mysterious aspect of a lot of fairy tales, with the darker vibe of more serious and meaningful books. This book is a great example of how a retelling should be written.
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