A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

A Thousand Nights by E.K. JohnstonA Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston
Published by Pan Macmillan
Published on 22nd October 2015
Pages: 256
Format: ARC
Source: Pan MacMillan
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2 Stars

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 received a copy of this book from Pan MacMillan in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


A nameless heroine sacrifices herself to save her sister and become the bride of a demonic king whose brides never live for long. She can randomly perform random magic and becomes all-powerful, but can she save the man the demon possesses?


For the most part, I loved the worldbuilding. This story was set in a desert and I swear sometimes I could feel the sand on my feet and getting all into my clothes as sand is wont to do. The descriptions of day to day life in the desert and qasr were lovely. The language used was quite a formal style, and combine that with the fact that no character apart from Lo-Melkhiin was named, it lent a bit of a dreamy atmosphere to the storytelling.


The blurb on my ARC said, “The most dangerous love story ever told.” Don’t be fooled – this isn’t a romantic story. The love story is one of between sisters, like Frozen. Our nameless main character is utterly devoted to her sister, and vice versa, and their love for each other is what drives what little plot there is.

The nameless main character also develops a strong relationship with Lo-Melkhiin’s mother, the henna artist, and or course her existing relationship with her mother and sister’s mother are also remarkable.

There is no relationship with Lo-Melkhiin. They just sort of co-exist and he lives to mock her. She’s not particularly afraid of him, and she never plots against him.


The biggest thing that annoyed me about this basically plotless book was the magic system. Out of nowhere, this girl, our nameless heroine, can suddenly conjure beings and astral project and even use x-ray vision (though none of it is referred to as such, it’s deliberately kept a little vague and dream-like). She has premonitions and suddenly, without even trying or learning to control whatever magic she’s got, she can easily defeat her enemies. She’s all-powerful and nothing can stop her, and she can save the day without much of a challenge at all.

The other thing that rankled me was the plot. The plot was rather boring. Our nameless girl is taken to the qasr, spends some time philosophising with a wise old man, unconsciously performs magic and is suddenly this uber-powerful magical girl, gets taken back to her father’s camp and defeats her enemy. Sure, she survives every night with Lo-Melkhiin, but I never actually felt like she was in danger. He treated her like an amusing plaything. And she didn’t really do anything to survive the night, either, nor did she plot an escape. She just kind of existed, passively, as the world worked around her. She didn’t even have to work hard, or even understand, her magic use. It just happened.

I thought A Thousand Nights (personally I think One Thousand Nights is a classier title) was supposed to refer to the number of nights the bride survived, but instead it refers to the number of nights Lo-Melkhiin has been possessed by a demon and gone on his bride-killing rampage. That being said, one thousand nights is just over three years, and I thought I read somewhere that he had been bride-hunting for ten (I could be wrong about this, and I didn’t double-check it, unlike the time where I DID double check to see if the MC had actually had a wedding ceremony, which she did not, even though it is referred to at least twice). So I really don’t know what the significance of the title is, other than to help people realise it’s a retelling of a famous story.


I wouldn’t bother with this book. Sure, it gets bonus points for diversity but lush language and exotic worldbuilding can’t hide the fact that this book makes no sense and is boring as hell. And the blurb on the back, “The most dangerous love story ever told” is really misleading.


About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

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