Monday, March 28, 2016

Double Review: A Thousand Nights - E.K. Johnston

A Thousand Nights
E.K. Johnston 
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Fantasy, Romance
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Rating: Did Not Finish

Thanks to Disney-Hyperion for the eARC I received via Netgalley!

I am so sad to be writing this review right now. So sad. I had really high hopes for A Thousand Nights - the cover is absolutely gorgeous, and the premise sounded really interesting. However, this one just fell flat, and for the first time ever with a book I wasn't required to read for school, I had to DNF it at 30%.

A Thousand Nights started off really strong. At the beginning of the book, I was really drawn in by the writing style - it has this folklore feeling to it that feels like magic on a page. The way Johnston sets up the story really draws the reader in and establishes the world quickly. However, after multiple chapters of this style, it started to lose its magic and felt like it was dragging along. There were moments where it seemed like something promising was going to happen, but ultimately, it mostly put me to sleep.

Basically, my feelings on this book can be summed up by the following image:

Part of me really wishes I could keep reading this - I'm intrigued by the magical elements of the plot that were set up thus far - but having just come back from not reading for several months, reading this book is kind of a chore. I'm sure there are people out there that are mesmerized by the style and continue reading, but unfortunately, it just fell flat for me.

- Kiersten

Noor's Review of A Thousand Nights
Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

This book took me an entire month to read because it was just so boring. Like, when you boil it down, it was just so hard to get through because every time I thought about picking it up I would be like "or maybe I could not do that" and then I would go and do a different, more fun thing. I so desperately wanted to like it too, because I'm such a huge fan of retellings and 1001 Nights is so vast that Johnston could have done so much with it, truly. I just think it missed the mark.

I actually really liked the beginning of the book and so when I first started reading I thought it was going to be a nice, fun time. The writing style was super eloquent and kindof lilting -- it felt like the descriptions were being elegantly draped over me and I think if the prose weren't written the way it were, I couldn't have finished the book. Anyway, that's really my main positive for the book, that it's written well in terms of actual writing prowess, but I feel like Johnston spent so much time focusing on the prose that she neglected the story itself. You can't just have pretty writing for a whole book with no substance, it gets old after like 50 pages when you realize nothing is going to happen!!!

Anyway, the entire book I kept waiting for things to happen and nothing was happening. It was so stressful, honestly, because sometimes things would get teased at happening but then they wouldn't happen. Like, home girl has some magic going on in her system, right? That's not a spoiler, you know that from the back cover. And I was waiting for this facet of her being to be explored, to see what was special about her, but all I got were small little fragments. An instance of Psychic Embroidery here, a flash of sparks from her hands there. There was no exploration. The whole book felt like some kind of limbo. I wasn't sure if I was going towards a Big Important Plot Thing or if this was a relevant scene or if the "I volunteer as tribute" scene in the beginning was the biggest thing that was gonna happen -- it was a lot of waiting and very little actually happening. You could skip entire sections probably and not miss anything.

Probably 3/4 of the book had zero plot development or real content and then Relevant Things happen in like this very concentrated chunk of the end and then there's like the resolution where you tie up the ends and everything and honestly I didn't think the climax was worth suffering through the whole book for. Like it goes from 0-100 and I just was not here for that 100. It felt more like a 65 to be honest.

Also, did you notice I haven't named the protagonist in this review? That's because she has no name!! NO ONE in this book other than Lo-Melkhiin, the evil rapey demon king, has a name. At first I thought it was ~~fun and unique~~ but it got so painful to read as she kept going because she constantly wanted to wax poetic on members of her family but had no real names to call them by so you would get pages of her talking about "my father's father's father" and "my sister's mother" and "my sister's brother" and "my married brother." Imagine an entire full-length anecdote where the "hero" you're telling it about is consistently referred to as "my father's father's father." I know they apparently live in a time period where years aren't a thing and they measure age in summers so I guess language is still developing but you would think they'd have terms for grandparents???? It just got really redundant and it made the characters really unmemorable.

By the end of the book, even the writing that I found enchanting in the beginning had started to annoy me and just sounded like she was trying too hard to sound ~authentic~. Like, at one point she's talking to someone and says "I had to come at him like the wadi, with its meandering lines. I could not come at him as the sand-crow flew," and then a chapter or two before that she'd written "The wadi's path through the desert was not straight as the sand-crow flies, but it was a safer path," referring to an are about to be settled. I swear this isn't me nitpicking a redundancy or anything, but not everything has to be compared to wadis and sand-crows and sheep. It simply felt like trying too hard. (Side note: not that I'm a bird expert, or a sand-crow expert, but what kind of bird flies straight enough paths to be used as a simile for straightness?)

Anyway, I think I'm rambling at this point so some final thoughts:

  • I was unsatisfied and a little uncomfortable with the ending and I didn't think it was worth plowing through so much nothing for that little bit of action (and disappointing conclusion). 
  • The narrator didn't really have much personality beyond "loves her sister." 
  • The pretty writing was not enough to distract from the fact that there was no real content. 
  • There are so many ways to draw from 1001 Nights and I think it didn't deliver on the way it attempted.
  • The cover is still pretty and I still appreciate it.

- Noor

Have you wrongly judged a book by its cover?
Let us know in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. Sorry you guys didn't enjoy this one, I really liked the narration style and folklore.