It’s dense, it’s slow, it’s beautiful, and well thought out. Language alone makes me think it’s not Young Adult. That’s not to say that YA Books can’t be beautifully written, but the writing in A Thousand Nights does not capture the YA voice.
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 agree with many Goodreaders who claim this is more a re-imagining than a re-telling. There are similarities with the source work, yes, but most of it is different enough that I would file it outside of re-telling.
As I stated earlier, the writing is simply beautiful. And the world building and emotion is weaved in right from the beginning. Lomenkin chooses his wives from the villages in his kingdom, and they rarely live into the next week. This is not a secret at all and builds the tension in the novel on the first page.
Normally, I’d pull some quotes, but I want you to go read this.
You might not think I want you to read this given that I’ve rated it three stars, so let me move in there.
It’s is a heavier read than most YA novels, which is part of the reason I don’t believe that it is a YA novel. That’s not because I believe that teens can’t read it, or because I think they’re too stupid to pick up on the themes. I don’t think it’s a YA novel because of its language. Even as an adult and avid reader, this is hard to push myself into.
I am, however, glad that I did.