Review: A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnson

★☆☆☆☆

Ithousand-nights can count on one 6-fingered hand the number of 1-star ratings I’ve given (at least of the books I’ve rated):

  • The Magicians by Lev Grossman (although I may need to reread this now that I’m in the intended demographic)
  • Of Mice and Men
  • Choke by Chuck Palahnuik
  • The Maze Runner
  • The Fault in Our Stars
  • Fifty Shades trilogy (which were mindless, stupid fun to read but awful in general)

And now this.

I considered giving it two, because it wasn’t awful, it was just ridiculously boring, but I really need to start being more harsh in my critiques and not rewarding mediocrity.

Basically, the story is a reimagining of A Thousand and One Nights, and centers around a girl (who is never given a name) who takes her sister’s place and weds an evil king. The king marries one bride from each village and they all die, normally after one night. But the girl lives and keeps on living, because she tells beautiful stories to her captor. Inspirational, right? It might have been, except literally this entire story is a slow, drawn out monologue on the boring parts of this character’s life, and she never actually got around to telling any of these beautiful, entrancing stories. To summarize, here are some things this character does:

  • Weaves things
  • Has dreams and visions that come true. Repeatedly. (The novelty of this wore off after the first time.)
  • Talks about her village
  • Remembers things about her village
  • Worries about her sister
  • Has her hair done
  • Talks about goats
  • Does some random, unexplained but super helpful magic (??)
  • Weaves some more

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And of course, there’s some intrigue mixed in to keep you reading: How did Lo-Melkhiin become possessed by this demon? Will he ever be free? How will the girl escape from him?

Listen, I love me some magical realism. It’s my thing. But if that magic isn’t ever explained, or if it has a really flimsy explanation, I’m instantly turned off. The girl gets her powers from the prayers of her people, who believe her to have become a smallgod. So when she weaves a tale, the tale comes true. It’s an interesting premise, but the execution was so slow and boring that I could not hold my interest for long. It took me like two weeks to finish this, which is ridiculous for a short, easy-to-digest YA book.

The girl is a good heroine, of course. She’s brave, she’s strong, she’s calm in the face of danger and fear, she sacrifices herself to save those she loves. And I think these qualities are some of the reasons this book has so many fans. But is a strong female character really enough to carry a book? I don’t think so. If it had been flipped and the protagonist were a young man, I have a feeling this book would have bored a lot of its readers. Simply the presence of a strong female character seems to be enough for some people, but it wasn’t for me. I was bored to tears.

Another issue for me is that I had figured a vast majority of my issues with this book would be explained in the sequel (which I’m not going to read), but apparently the sequel is set generations in the future. So all of those questions I had are probably never going to be answered. Maybe I missed something vital in the reading of this, but it was just incomprehensible for me.

Anyway, on to the next one. My next book for 2017 is The New Policeman by Kate Thompson! Check back for my review of that soon.

 

 

 

 

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