by Isabel Greenberg
From the author who brought you The Encyclopedia of Early Earth comes another Epic Tale of Derring-Do. Prepare to be dazzled once more by the overwhelming power of stories and see Love prevail in the face of Terrible Adversity! You will read of betrayal, loyalty, madness, bad husbands, lovers both faithful and unfaithful, wise old crones, moons who come out of the sky, musical instruments that won't stay quiet, friends and brothers and fathers and mothers and above all, many, many sisters.
If you say: lesbian retelling of The 1001 Nights, I say: gimme gimme gimme!
When it comes to fairy tale retellings I usually end up reading the Brothers Grimm with a fresh lick of paint, so to read a story inspired by The 1001 Nights instead is always refreshing. To read a retelling with the added twist of LGBT+ protagonists is even better - frankly I think we need more LGBT+ retellings in the world.
I haven't read Isabel Greenberg's The Encyclopedia of Early Earth but I know it was very popular upon its release, but I heard so many people talking about The One Hundred Nights of Hero, and plenty of people including it in their list of favourite reads of 2016, that I couldn't resist picking a copy up for myself. It's been a while since I read a graphic novel and reading this one was like reading Through the Woods meets Nimona: it's a gorgeous tribute to the power of storytelling (and what is The 1001 Nights if not a testament to the power of a good story?) that's both bittersweet at times and brilliantly funny at others.
Hero and Cherry are lovers in a land where women are second-class citizens, and when Cherry's idiot husband makes a horrible bargain with his idiot friend that said friend won't be able to seduce Cherry over the course of one hundred nights, Hero, who works as Cherry's handmaiden, tells the 'gentleman' stories that distract him from his less-than-noble quest. The novel subsequently weaves in and out of stories with women at their centre, stories that are both dark and whimsical.
I love the clever ways the stories link to one another, the way they cross the line between fantasy and reality in Hero and Cherry's world, and the art style is lovely. Reading this has definitely made me want to check out more of Greenberg's work in future.
I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about the ending, but I had to give The One Hundred Nights of Hero five stars; it's funny and heart-warming and just so darn good. If you haven't read this yet, I highly recommend it!