A Thousand Nights
by E. K. Johnston
The cruel ruler Lo-Melkhiin has already taken three hundred girls to wife and killed them all, one by one. Now he is coming to her village, and she knows who he will take – her beautiful sister. She vows she will not let that happen. And so she takes her sister’s place and becomes Lo-Melkhiin’s next wife, fully expecting death to follow soon after. But night after night, Lo-Melkhiins visits her and listens to her stories, and in the morning she awakes to see the sun in the sky. Little by little, she begins to unravel the secrets of the ruler and discovers that he was not always cruel. Once he was good. But one day he went hunting in the desert and when he came back, he was no longer the same man. As she continues her life in Lo-Melkhiin’s palace, her sister is back in their village, calling upon the desert winds to aid her as she mourns. Back at the palace, she begins to find her own power, power that gives life to her words and her work. Soon she dreams of great power strong enough to save the king from the monster that possesses him now. In this retelling of the famous One Thousand and One Nights, E. K. Johnston weaves a powerful story of good battling against evil.
I chose this book mainly because it is based on One Thousand and One Nights. It is also a fantasy, one of my favorite genres. I had read One Thousand and One Nights as a child, and I thought it would be interesting to compare the two and note the similarities and differences. As it turns out, the two stories are similar only in that they both involve a girl who is taken by a cruel ruler and who must tell a new story every night in order to survive.
In this book, which is written in first person, the only names ever mentioned are Lo-Melkhiin’s and two of the Skeptics, philosophers of the palace that ponder the mysteries of the universe. Everyone else is merely given a label such as “my sister,” “my sister’s mother,” or “Lo-Melkhiins’s mother.” I have never read a book before in which the author chooses not to name the characters. Although this may seem confusing, it was not, as the labels made it clear to whom the author was referring. This lends the story an interesting quality, as if those with names are somehow more real and present than those without. Perhaps the author wished the audience to form their ideas of the characters from their words and actions only, without the influence of names.
The vocabulary in this book is relatively simple; there should be no words that pose a difficulty to young readers. Despite the use of simple words, however, the author is able to weave descriptions that put clear, colorful images in your mind.
The character development focuses mainly on the sister who was taken to Lo-Melkhiin’s palace because the story is told from her viewpoint. As the story unfolds, it also reveals bits and pieces of what happened to Lo-Melkhiin, leading the audience to understand more about him, or rather, the monster that possesses him.
This book contains good, clean language and there are no inappropriate scenes to avoid. This is an entertaining fantastical story that I believe both the young and old alike can enjoy.