A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston is a loose retelling of the framing story from One Thousand and One Nights. Although it stands alone, a short sequel titled “The Garden of Three Hundred Flowers” is available as a free ebook on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and a novel taking place generations later named Spindle was released toward the end of 2016. Regardless of A Thousand Nights seeming complete on its own, I do want to read both of these other stories since it is an exquisite book. It’s a beautifully written, fairy-tale-like novel that is largely about women who are undervalued and overlooked: the bonds between these women and the power they have, especially when they all work together.

Once, Lo-Melkhiin was a good man. When hunting one day, he was separated from his guards and encountered an ancient being who had watched humans live and die, coveted their ability to create, and took whatever it could from them while always craving more. When Lo-Melkhiin returned from the desert after this incident, he seemed to be a changed man, a cruel man—but the Lo-Melkhiin who emerged from that desert was no longer completely a man.

Since that fateful day, Lo-Melkhiin has married three hundred young women. Some of his wives lived for only one day after their marriage while others lived as many as thirty, but they all share one thing in common: in the end, they all die. After this became a pattern, the men were forced to take measures to keep traders from rebelling; however, instead of making a law preventing these women’s deaths, they simply restricted how often Lo-Melkhiin could return to the same location seeking a new queen. Only after he had married one woman from each village and district within city walls could he return to the same one for another wife, and then he would have to go through each of them again before seeking yet another woman from one of these places.

When it’s the nameless narrator’s village’s turn to surrender a bride to the king, she knows that he will choose her dearest companion: her slightly older, more beautiful sister. She will be made a hero for the sacrifice that will allow the other unmarried women to live and become a smallgod to her people after her inevitable death—or she would have, had the protagonist not decided she could not bear for her beloved sister to be forced into such a terrible fate. So she goes to her sister’s mother and divulges that she has a plan to save her daughter, requesting that she dress her like her sister. She dons the purple dishdashah that her sister was to wear on her wedding day: a garment that her sister claimed belonged to them both since they worked on it together and embroidered their shared secrets into it. On this day only, the younger sister will outshine the elder.

When the older sister discovers what the younger has done, she protests, but it is too late, for Lo-Melkhiin and his men are nearly upon them. As the two prepare to face him, the younger asks the elder to make her a smallgod after she’s gone, and her sister promises to make her one immediately, asking “What good to be revered when you are dead?” (pp. 15) She keeps her promise, and immediately falls to her knees in prayer as her dear sister is taken away to become Lo-Melkhiin’s bride.

After she is brought to the qasr and wed to the king, he comments on her lack of fear and notes that he thinks she will not die tonight. He grabs her hand and she sees colored threads between them, and then he leaves her. This tradition continues as does her life as Lo-Melkhiin’s wife, and she feels a power growing, one that seems to let her affect reality.

A Thousand Nights is a gorgeous book. It’s not an action-packed book but one that weaves its tale slowly with plenty of quiet but powerful moments, and the writing is so lovely that I want to quote about half the book when trying to explain why one should read it. It’s mythic and atmospheric, a book to savor, and also one that has a lot to say about women. I absolutely loved A Thousand Nights.

Although it’s inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, it’s not a literal retelling. It’s mainly narrated by the young woman who married Lo-Melkhiin to save her sister, but it begins with and is interspersed with short interludes from the perspective of her husband: not the man Lo-Melkhiin, but the greedy being he met in the desert who returned in his stead. After the two are married, the wife does not remain alive by entertaining her husband with her stories but through her own power. In fact, she barely tells Lo-Melkhiin any stories at all, although she does tell him one about her sister on the first night when he asks about why she deliberately drew his eye to take her place. Despite that, stories and storytelling are still central and it does contain some wonderful tales about the narrator and her family, such as how her father’s father’s father became a smallgod (and the reason the women in the family find it especially meaningful, a secret only shared among the family’s women). I also especially enjoyed the story of how the two sisters “did not hunt with spear or arrows, but with their own minds,” to quote their father (pp. 157).

A Thousand Nights is not a romance, and the author does not try to make it into a love story despite the implication that there is a good man left somewhere in Lo-Melkhiin. The narrator does not look upon Lo-Melkhiin as a man she might love; she remembers all the evil he has done and the women who have died because of him, and any time she does help him, it’s for the greater good or the sake of his own mother. Though there are of course scenes between her and Lo-Melkhiin (as well as some I enjoyed with her father and brothers), the relationships that shine brightest in this story are those between women: the narrator and her sister, the women in the narrator’s family, the women in Lo-Melkhiin’s qasr, and the narrator and Lo-Melkhiin’s mother. (Most of the characters in this story are nameless, including all the women, and are referred to as the narrator’s sister, mother, father, brothers, the weaver, the henna mistress, and so forth.) Although often overlooked by men, it’s the women who ultimately have the most influence in this tale, and it is they together who create ripples of change that become something great and powerful.

If there is anything else I could have wanted from A Thousand Nights, it’s characters with more personality. The narrator is courageous, wise, and loyal to her sister, but even though I quite liked reading about her and her mastery of her developing power, there wasn’t much about her that was distinct even though she was the most fleshed out of the characters through her words and stories. I do think that her portrayal fit with the fairy-tale-like nature of the tale so this is minor; it’s mainly a reason why I absolutely loved this book but can still think of other books I preferred since I most enjoy books that delve deeply into characters.

Even so, A Thousand Nights is a fantastic novel that belongs on the keeper shelf. Though the story itself may seem slow paced at times, it was never boring due to its captivating prose—in fact, I ended up reading many passages more than once. The mythic aspects of the story and the vividness of the desert setting were also well done, but what stands out to me most of all is the quiet focus on women as they live their lives, look out for each other, and use their strength together for change.

My Rating: 9/10

Where I got my reading copy: I received it for Christmas (it was on my wishlist).

This book is February’s selection from a poll on Patreon.

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week–old or new, bought or received for review consideration (usually unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

This is a day late due to internet issues, but last week brought several books, including one by one of my favorite authors!

Assassin's Fate by Robin Hobb

Assassin’s Fate (Fitz and the Fool Trilogy #3) by Robin Hobb

Assassin’s Fate is scheduled for release on May 9 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

This is one of my most anticipated books of this year, probably even THE most anticipated 2017 release. Robin Hobb is one of my favorite authors, and I loved her other trilogies about these characters/this world and the previous books in this trilogy (especially the second, which was immensely satisfying!):

  1. Fool’s Assassin (My Review)
  2. Fool’s Quest (My Review)

Warning: The book description below does include spoilers for previous books in the series.


The stunning conclusion to Robin Hobb’s Fitz and the Fool trilogy, which began with Fool’s Assassin and Fool’s Quest

More than twenty years ago, the first epic fantasy novel featuring FitzChivalry Farseer and his mysterious, often maddening friend the Fool struck like a bolt of brilliant lightning. Now New York Times bestselling author Robin Hobb brings to a momentous close the third trilogy featuring these beloved characters in a novel of unsurpassed artistry that is sure to endure as one of the great masterworks of the genre.

Fitz’s young daughter, Bee, has been kidnapped by the Servants, a secret society whose members not only dream of possible futures but use their prophecies to add to their wealth and influence. Bee plays a crucial part in these dreams—but just what part remains uncertain.

As Bee is dragged by her sadistic captors across half the world, Fitz and the Fool, believing her dead, embark on a mission of revenge that will take them to the distant island where the Servants reside—a place the Fool once called home and later called prison. It was a hell the Fool escaped, maimed and blinded, swearing never to return.

For all his injuries, however, the Fool is not as helpless as he seems. He is a dreamer too, able to shape the future. And though Fitz is no longer the peerless assassin of his youth, he remains a man to be reckoned with—deadly with blades and poison, and adept in Farseer magic. And their goal is simple: to make sure not a single Servant survives their scourge.

Radiate by C. A. Higgins

Radiate (Lightless Trilogy #3) by C. A. Higgins

This science fiction novel will be released on May 23 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

The publisher’s website has excerpts from the first two books in this trilogy (the “Look Inside” links below the covers):

  1. Lightless
  2. Supernova

In the follow-up to Lightless and Supernova, C. A. Higgins again fuses science fiction, suspense, and drama to tell the story of a most unlikely heroine: Ananke, once a military spacecraft, now a sentient artificial intelligence. Ananke may have the powers of a god, but she is consumed by a very human longing: to know her creators.

Ananke may have the powers of a god, but she is consumed by a very human longing: to know her creators. Now Ananke is on a quest to find companionship, understanding, and even love. She is accompanied by Althea, the engineer who created her, and whom she sees as her mother. And she is in search of her “father,” Matthew, the programmer whose code gave her the spark of life.

But Matthew is on a strange quest of his own, traveling the galaxy alongside Ivan, with whom he shares a deeply painful history. Ananke and her parents are racing toward an inevitable collision, with consequences as violent as the birth of the solar system itself—and as devastating as the discovery of love.

Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer

Seven Surrenders (Terra Ignota #2) by Ada Palmer

The second Terra Ignota novel will be released on March 7 (hardcover, ebook). Tor.com has excerpts from Seven Surrenders and the previous book, Too Like the Lightning.


In a future of near-instantaneous global travel, of abundant provision for the needs of all, a future in which no one living can remember an actual war…a long era of stability threatens to come to an abrupt end.

For known only to a few, the leaders of the great Hives, nations without fixed location, have long conspired to keep the world stable, at the cost of just a little blood. A few secret murders, mathematically planned. So that no faction can ever dominate, and the balance holds. And yet the balance is beginning to give way.

Mycroft Canner, convict, sentenced to wander the globe in service to all, knows more about this conspiracy the than he can ever admit. Carlyle Foster, counselor, sensayer, has secrets as well, and they burden Carlyle beyond description. And both Mycroft and Carlyle are privy to the greatest secret of all: Bridger, the child who can bring inanimate objects to life.

Shot through with astonishing invention, Ada Palmer’s Seven Surrenders is the next movement in one of the great SF epics of our time.

Eagle and Empire by Alan Smale

Eagle and Empire (Clash of Eagles #3) by Alan Smale

This conclusion to the Clash of Eagles trilogy will be released on May 16 (hardcover, ebook).

The publisher’s website has excerpts from the two previous books (links are below the covers):

  1. Clash of Eagles
  2. Eagle in Exile

The award-winning author of Clash of Eagles and Eagle in Exile concludes his masterly alternate-history saga of the Roman invasion of North America in this stunning novel.

Roman Praetor Gaius Marcellinus came to North America as a conqueror, but after meeting with defeat at the hands of the city-state of Cahokia, he has had to forge a new destiny in this strange land. In the decade since his arrival, he has managed to broker an unstable peace between the invading Romans and a loose affiliation of Native American tribes known as the League.

But invaders from the west will shatter that peace and plunge the continent into war: The Mongol Horde has arrived and they are taking no prisoners.

As the Mongol cavalry advances across the Great Plains leaving destruction in its path, Marcellinus and his Cahokian friends must summon allies both great and small in preparation for a final showdown. Alliances will shift, foes will rise, and friends will fall as Alan Smale brings us ever closer to the dramatic final battle for the future of the North American continent.

The Gifted by Matthew Dickerson

The Gifted (The Daegmon War #1) by Matthew Dickerson

The Gifted and the second book in The Daegmon War trilogy, The Betrayed, are both available now (The Gifted in paperback and The Betrayed in paperback and ebook).


The Daegmon War is a three– volume fantasy novel beginning with The Gifted, continuing with The Betrayed, and ending with The Mountain. The centuries– old war against the Daegmon Lord has been dormant for generations and knowledge of the Gifts (powers of healing, of supernatural knowledge, and of strength over demonic foes) has faded into dim folklore.

When one of the Daegmons suddenly returns to wage war against the All– Maker and his people, only one small band, led by a young Westwash woman named Elynna and an Andani hunter–guide, rises up against the terrible foe. But they are few, and only a handful of them number among the Gifted. When their own king and his armies turn against the them, all seems lost for the company. Only Thimeon’s faith in the All– Maker and in the Holy Mountain sustains the faithfulfew.

Additional Book(s):

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week–old or new, bought or received for review consideration (usually unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

Only one book came in the mail last week, but it’s one I’m very excited about!

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey

New York Times bestselling author Jacqueline Carey’s latest novel will be released on February 14 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). Tor.com has an excerpt from Miranda and Caliban.

This was one of my most anticipated 2017 releases, and I was especially thrilled to see this page inside my book:

Jacqueline Carey's Signature

Jacqueline Carey is a fantastic writer, and I’m very interested in reading her take on Miranda, Caliban, and Propero’s time on the island before the events of The Tempest. She wrote about Miranda and Caliban in her February 2017 update on her site.


A lovely girl grows up in isolation where her father, a powerful magus, has spirited them to in order to keep them safe.

We all know the tale of Prospero’s quest for revenge, but what of Miranda? Or Caliban, the so-called savage Prospero chained to his will?

In this incredible retelling of the fantastical tale, Jacqueline Carey shows readers the other side of the coin―the dutiful and tenderhearted Miranda, who loves her father but is terribly lonely. And Caliban, the strange and feral boy Prospero has bewitched to serve him. The two find solace and companionship in each other as Prospero weaves his magic and dreams of revenge.

Always under Prospero’s jealous eye, Miranda and Caliban battle the dark, unknowable forces that bind them to the island even as the pangs of adolescence create a new awareness of each other and their doomed relationship.

Miranda and Caliban is bestselling fantasy author Jacqueline Carey’s gorgeous retelling of The Tempest. With hypnotic prose and a wild imagination, Carey explores the themes of twisted love and unchecked power that lie at the heart of Shakespeare’s masterpiece, while serving up a fresh take on the play’s iconic characters.

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature where I talk about books I got over the last week–old or new, bought or received for review consideration (usually unsolicited). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included.

Two debut novels (both February releases) showed up in the mail recently, but first, here is a brief overview of posts from last week:

Now, the latest books!

Gilded Cage by Vic James

Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1) by Vic James

This debut novel will be released in the US on February 14 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). It’s already available in the UK.

Tor.com has an excerpt from Gilded Cage.


A darkly fantastical debut set in a modern England where magically gifted aristocrats rule, and commoners are doomed to serve—for readers of Victoria Aveyard and Susanna Clarke


Our world belongs to the Equals—aristocrats with magical gifts—and all commoners must serve them for ten years.

But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of their noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty—but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

Kings of the Wyld (The Band #1) by Nicholas Eames

This fantasy debut novel will be released on February 21 (trade paperback, ebook). The publisher’s website has an excerpt from Kings of the Wyld.



Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best, the most feared and renowned crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld.

Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk, or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help–the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.

It’s time to get the band back together.



Since the beginning of 2016, I have been reading and reviewing one book a month based on the results of a poll on PatreonAll of these monthly reviews can be viewed here.

The February theme is one of my favorites: retellings! I love retold stories and reimaginings, and it sounded like a fun theme for the month.

The February book selections were as follows:

The February book is…

A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston

A Thousand Nights by E. K. Johnston

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 don’t know how I missed this book when it was first released in 2015, but I became aware of it toward the end of last year and have wanted to read it ever since!

The House of Shattered Wings
by Aliette de Bodard
416pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 6/10
Amazon Rating: 3.4/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.6/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.41/5

Nebula Award–winning author Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings, the first Dominion of the Fallen novel, won the British Science Fiction Award for Best Novel and was a finalist for the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel. A sequel, The House of Binding Thorns, is scheduled for release in April.

The Great Houses War left Paris in ruins. Those who are fortunate belong to a House backed with magic and power that can protect its members. Most Houses are ruled by one of the Fallen, beings who literally fell to the Earth after being cast down by God. Though they have magic, they are vulnerable since they are literally made of power: their flesh, blood, and bones can make ordinary humans quite potent—and there are many desperate ordinary humans struggling just to survive within the city who desire that power.

When a new Fallen crashes to the ground in Paris, she’s first discovered by two gang members, one of whom convinces the other they should harvest her parts. The young Fallen’s terror and pain lead another Fallen to the spot: Selene, who became the Head of House Silverspires after the mysterious disappearance of its founder and her teacher, Morningstar. Selene fights with magic that should easily destroy both attackers, but the instigator’s companion absorbs her spell even though he’s not Fallen and is left behind by the other, being to weak to run after his efforts. This magic arouses Selene’s curiosity—she’s never experienced anything like it before—and she has this man, Philippe, brought back to her House along with the rescued Fallen.

Though held in House Silverspires against his will, Philippe can at least wander through it. In the course of his explorations, he encounters a cursed mirror that unleashes darkness and causes him to see visions of Morningstar. Soon after, shadows stalk the House, and people and Fallen die suddenly of unknown causes: the only clue is that they all have a wound that looks like a snakebite. Those within the House must unravel the mystery or the entire House may fall…

The House of Shattered Wings is a decent novel with a lot of strengths. Most of all, I loved the blending of different fantasy elements in this setting. Since Europe and the Fallen have been taking over the world, older magics have been fading but there are still remnants (perhaps more than the Fallen realize given that Philippe’s abilities are surprising and incomprehensible to them). Though the details of Philippe’s history in Annam are not fully explained, he was once a mortal who earned a place as an Immortal in the Jade Emperor’s Court—until he was cast out, making him somewhere between the two states. In addition to angels and spirits, the book also draws from Greek mythology.

It’s also a good story with some lovely prose, and the first half was extremely readable as it set up the world and introduced some intriguing characters:

  • Selene, a Fallen who tries to fulfill her duties protecting House Silverspires while feeling as though she’ll never be able to live up to her predecessor, the oldest and most powerful of all the Fallen: Morningstar himself.
  • Philippe, a former Immortal with a mysterious background stuck in France after he was forced to leave his homeland to fight their war.
  • Isabelle, the newest Fallen who can be by turns timid and fierce (or naive and wise).
  • Madeleine, the House alchemist who turned to the addictive substance angel essence after she was haunted by the death of someone she cherished and her own narrow escape from a coup at House Hawthorn.
  • Emmanuelle, the intelligent, empathetic House archivist and Selene’s partner (the other four are more major characters but I had to include her because I thought she was the most likable!).

However, my patience started to wear thin throughout the second half for one main reason: the narrative is bogged down by too much internal monologue. It’s told through the third person, mainly from the perspectives of Philippe, Selene, and Madeleine, and it seemed as though none of these characters could have a conversation or observe events without following it up with every single thought on what had just happened instead of moving the plot forward. At times, this much telling can work, but I didn’t feel it added much to their characterization. They did not have distinct voices, and most of these reflections were either simple observations or introspection that didn’t show much new about them.

Earlier in the book, this didn’t bother me as much since I was just getting to know the characters, but later it made them seem rather stale, especially since the dialogue was also rather to the point and did not exhibit personality. By the end, I found that the characters who were more in the shadows were more compelling than the main characters, all of whom had interesting backgrounds but did not have much complexity or multidimensional characterization. Even though I was disappointed in the politics between Houses since these conversations lacked tension or fun exchanges, I’m most likely to read the sequel in hopes of more about two of those characters in the shadows, Claire and Asmodeus. Claire, a shrewd older woman, is one of the few mortals to become head of a House and seems to be the type to play a long game. Asmodeus has mysterious motivations, and I am quite interested in learning more about why he has some of the whims he does.

The House of Shattered Wings is a promising first novel in the series, and it is a great story with some beautiful phrasing. However, the narrative is bogged down by too much introspection that doesn’t advance the characterization or add much insight (especially later in the novel), making it less engaging to read during the second part despite the excellent setting and prose. It succeeded in making me curious about the sequel but I’m not quite convinced I want to read it once it has been published.

My Rating: 6/10

Where I got my reading copy: I purchased it.

This book is January’s selection from a poll on Patreon.