The narrator of A Thousand Nights lives with her family in the desert, a peaceful and prosperous place thanks to the ruler, Lo-Melkiin. Unfortunately, despite his excellent ruling abilities, Lo-Melkiin has some flaws: the main one being that he marries girls and murders them for fun. One day, Lo-Melkiin comes to the narrator’s tribe looking for a new bride and our narrator offers herself as Lo-Melkiin’s new bride in order to save her sister.
What I wanted from this book: a clever heroine weaving stories for her murdering despot husband every night in order to prolong her life.
What I got from this book: an interesting description of life in a Middle Eastern desert, with some fairly vague magical powers thrown in.
A Thousand Nights isn’t a terrible book, but the main problem I had was that the story didn’t exactly match up to what I assumed it would be. Part of this is my fault, I guess. I’d heard that this was a re-telling of the Scheherezade myth and I assumed we would hear some of the stories the main character weaves in order to save her life. Unfortunately we don’t. Instead of telling stories to keep her husband captivated, she has a strange magical prophesy-type power that makes Lo-Melkiin unwilling (or unable? I never managed to work it out) to kill her. She tells Lo-Melkiin about her fiery sister on a couple of occasions, but mostly their night-time encounters consist of Lo-Melkiin holding her hands and a strange light being transferred between them.
I never really understood what the source of the power-giving light was. Was she becoming a god? Or was she just being granted the favour of the gods? There were a lot of aspects to the plot and background where I felt like I was watching everything through gaps in a fence, never really getting the whole picture.
While the pacing of the book was quite slow, I was happy to carry on reading because the world-building was pretty good. There was some lovely writing and descriptions which really evoked life in the desert and I got a good sense of the structure of society and what the people there do in order to survive the harsh conditions.
For a first-person-narrator book, however, it felt like I was constantly being held at arm’s length, and I never really got a sense of who the narrator was. All I could really tell you by the end of the book was that she loved her sister a lot. It probably didn’t help that she had no name, so everything just felt very impersonal. In fact, none of the characters (apart from Lo-Melkiin) have names and I’d never realised how much I use names when I’m reading to get a sense of who characters are and and to remember facts I’m told about them.
Also, the narration didn’t really evoke any feels. I didn’t feel the MC’s terror at potentially being murdered by her husband every night, no curiosity about her burgeoning magical abilities, no desire to know what was causing them or where they came from.
I think there was a lot of potential in this book and there were some really good ideas, but ultimately the story was too vague for me to enjoy it properly.
I received a copy of A Thousand Nights in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley.