Expected Publication: October 6th, 2015 by Disney-Hyperion
*I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected the opinions stated below.
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.
The thing about A Thousand Nights, for me, is that it felt like both nothing and everything was happening at the same time. Nothing in terms of the actual plot; our heroine - who doesn't even have a name! - spends most of the book simply doing things and speaking to people in Lo-Melkhiin's palace and it feels as if nothing is progressing. Meanwhile, it feels like everything is happening because our narrator often goes off into tangents about tales she's been told of the smallgods or thoughts/sort of flashbacks about her sister and her family. I found these to be very interesting, particularly because of the way they were written - it's the kind of beautiful writing that legends and myths should be written in. But this was, at times, very hard to get through. And very easy to start skimming without even noticing.
Don't get me wrong, all the little stories could be very interesting, and they gave a FANTASTIC glimpse at the heroine's life before all this and the kind of world they live in. All too often, we don't get very much in the way of backstory, so this was appreciated. But A Thousand Nights could be very light on the dialogue, which is something I struggled with.
That said, I think the world-building here was fantastic. I felt so immersed in the world, and it was definitely a breathtaking one. (Not as breathtaking as that cover, though.) There were so many little details - whether they be about her family or stories of Lo-Melkhiin or of other people in the palace, such as the man who carved stone. This story had the potential to just play at being whimsical but never commit to it and throw you into a very unbelievable world, but that's absolutely not what happened. All those tiny little details added up to create a true fantasy world.
While most of the plot often felt very slow, the last 15% or so felt like it moved far too fast. I can't get into details about it because it would be the mother of all spoilers, basically, but I think if this had been stretched out more and started earlier in the book, I would have been much happier. And I do wish we had seen a little bit more AFTER the climax of the book, but I understand why there wasn't. I just think it would have been really interesting to see a little more.
Lo-Melkhiin is such an interesting character. We get glimpses into his head and it's unlike most things I've read, so that was fun. And I really appreciated our heroine and her quiet defiance. She's not trying to lead a rebellion or take down an empire. She's just trying to protect her sister, and the bravery she has is so incredible. She doesn't need to be afraid of Lo-Melkhiin, because she knows what he's going to do to her, and she accepted that the second she decided to trick him into taking her as a wife instead of her sister.
Overall: Beautifully and artistically written, A Thousand Nights is a very mystical story. However, I did find that it dragged quite a bit and found myself skimming more often than I would like. I think it's definitely something to check out if you like legends and gorgeous writing. 3.5 stars.