Fatima's Reviews > A Thousand Nights

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston
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it was amazing
bookshelves: fantasy, feminist, fiction, romance, young-adult

When I started reading A Thousand Nights, I couldn’t help but compare it to The Wrath and the Dawn (which you’ll remember I wasn’t so fond of). Looking back, this was probably a big mistake. Both retellings may have been published in the same year, but to compare them would be doing this book an injustice. A Thousand Nights is a retelling, but it is also much more than that. Quite honestly, this book might have been inspired by the Arabian Nights, but it is hardly a retelling. Before I read The Wrath and the Dawn, I already had a preconceived image in mind of Shahrzad: a passionate, courageous and brave protagonist. I was disappointed to see that she was anything but that. The name Shahrazad has been passed down for centuries and is the epitome of a strong heroine.

And yet, I was confused to find that A Thousand Nights does not have a named narrator. I assumed her name would be Shahrazad because, hello, Arabian Nights retelling. But it’s not. And perhaps that’s what made this book so bewitching, because the narrator does not tell us she is Shahrazad: she shows us. She is well and truly deserving of that name. But it would be wrong to place her in the shackles of a name, confining her to the portrait of a legendary storyteller. While we owe a lot of our identity to our names, the majority of it comes from our character. Without getting too philosophical here, I think this message is quite important: our names do not define us, our actions do. Completely existentialist stance I’m taking here, but it’s true. Our nameless narrator does not have to be called Shahrazad – and I think that’s a crucial point to note (a lot of reviewers didn’t like this so much) because in a way, what Johnston has illustrated here is the strength and power of unnamed women throughout history. The little epilogue at the end of the book is an affirmation that while her efforts might be forgotten, or distorted by word of mouth, we should always remember where the tale began. We are all storytellers, and we are all capable of sharing stories with whosoever we please in our lives by word of mouth. As I write this review, I am also sharing this story with you all. Remember that folks. There’s power in your words.

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Reading Progress

March 31, 2016 – Shelved
March 31, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
May 18, 2016 – Started Reading
June 2, 2016 – Shelved as: fantasy
June 2, 2016 – Shelved as: feminist
June 2, 2016 – Shelved as: fiction
June 2, 2016 – Shelved as: romance
June 2, 2016 – Shelved as: young-adult
June 2, 2016 – Finished Reading

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