Thursday, 22 October 2015

A Thousand Nights

A Thousand Nights
Rating: 4/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy 
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher! 

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.

I love retellings, I really, really do, and this is one of the good ones! I am in the unique position of not having read the other retelling of 1001 Arabian Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn, unlike most other reviewers I've seen reviewing this. Don't get me wrong, it's on my Wishlist, but I've not got round to buying it and you know...reading it yet. As such, I can't really compare this to the other retelling like other reviewers have done, so to me it doesn't pale in comparison, like I've seen other reviewers saying. 

I can't really agree or disagree properly with other reviewers as I haven't read TWATD, but I'm not sure what everyone's issue would be with the two, as far as I'm aware, this one is different. It's unfortunate they came out the same year, and thus warrant all these comparisons, and when you have two books to compare, of similar's always going to have to be the "not as good" one. I actually think it's a shame it's been compared to the other book so much, and it's being reviewed and rated according to how it matches up with the other book. ANYWAY. Mini rant/preach over. There won't be a comparison from me because even if I wanted to...I can't! 

The thing I found most interesting about the book....was the lack of names. I read the entire book, and at some point it registered that our heroine didn't have a name...but it wasn't until I sat down after reading the book to make my review notes that I thought, "hang on....she didn't have a name...but neither did anyone else". Lo-Melkhiin was the only character with a name, everyone else was just "my sister", "my mother", "my sisters mother" and so on. It's not until the very end of the book that she has any kind of name. I though that was an incredibly interesting writing choice to make, particular as it was so well done that it took you a while to notice! 

I really liked our nameless protagonist, she was so determined to save her sister and truly loved her family. She didn't think about herself. She wouldn't let herself be afraid, or at least wouldn't let her fear show to anyone else. She's a strong character and she's courageous. She's nice to all she encounters, including those who are supposedly "beneath her" now she's Queen. She's incredibly clever and she was a joy to read about. Especially as she had some power of her own. She starts to see her sister and what she's doing, she starts to see little bits of the future and more. 

Lo-Melkhiin was incredibly interesting because of his power. He was not as he appeared to be and has his reasons for killing the girls. Technically he couldn't really help it, but you have to read the book to know what I mean, I don't want to explain properly because it would be a bit of a spoiler. Same as I can't explain too much about the very interesting POV we get little snippets of throughout the book. The narrator is kind of a mystery in the beginning, like you know what it is, and you know it's the villain, but it too doesn't really have a name, and you actually learn more about it as you go on! Anyway, this POV actually shows you how Lo-Melkhiin became the way he is and then catches up the present and adds some intrigue. 

Everything about this book is rich. The writing is rich and evocative and paints a vivid picture of the settings and the clothes and the events. It really sucks you in to the world of the book and you become completely immersed in it. You can picture everything so vividly, you feel like you are there. The settings are rich, the desert, the city and so on. I enjoyed the contrast between the two. Each is vividly painted and richly described. I actually liked that rather than adapting one hundred percent to her new and more luxurious life in the palace, she actually longs for the desert and can't bear to sit doing nothing. The characters are rich. Each one wonderfully drawn and brought to life, and each character is strong and well developed. 

The very beginning of the book sucks you in as you wonder who or rather what is narrating. The plot progresses quickly, with little mysteries and intrigues, as well as twists and turns. It was interesting being in the head of our nameless protag, it has to be said, and the writing was so compelling that even in the slower moments of the plot, you carried on reading, unable to put it down and having to know what happens next. Everything has a purpose. there's magic in the story but it's not thrown in for the sake of it, it has a purpose and fits with the plot. 

There are stories within stories, as you get Lo-Melkhiin's story, the present story of he and our protag. You also get stories of her past and her childhood and life so far. I really enjoyed whenever a story would pop up, and it always slotted in to the narrative easily. There was also plenty of detail to them, making sure every part of the story was engaging. There's no romance in the book, and it is a standalone, the ending wrapping up perfectly. BUT there is a hint of a romance at the end of the book and I kind of want to know what happened after the book ended! I actually really, really loved the ending of the book, I can't even begin to tell you how much! There is a kind of epilogue that I found very interesting and a nice little touch to round it off, but it didn't let you know how the characters where getting on!

The book is atmospheric. Hellishly so if you don't like being on the edge of your seat. The book is quite dark in places. Like I said, she doesn't fear Lo-Melkhiin even though she should, and there are some intense scenes that really had me on the edge of my seat and my nerves grating, and I was actually scared for her. I enjoyed the fact this story was dark, with no romance and warm and fuzzies. It just give it an edge and made it seem more authentic and realistic, because lets be honest. If any of us where in that situation I highly doubt we'd be falling in love and so on. 

I've got to say, I can see why the book is slow in points, like at the very beginning, but it is still slow. Like I said, the plot does progress quickly once the ball is rolling, so if you start reading the book and you're thinking "It's so slow, I don't think I can carry on" or something similar. Carry on. Just do it. Because you'll really be missing out and it picks up nicely and carries us to the end. 

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