Johnston's A Thousand Nights is a retelling of the story of Scheherazade, bride of a king known for killing all his brides on their first day of marriage. Our narrator here remains nameless, but knowing it is her desert village's turn to give a bride to their king, she does her best to be the one he chooses. She does not believe she will live, since the king, Lo-Melkiin has had hundreds of brides, but she will do anything to protect her sister from that fate. She is chosen and taken to live with the king, fully expecting to die but unwilling to show him her fear. At home, her sister creates a shrine as they do for their ancestors who have done a great service, and our narrator becomes a smallgod to her village.
Each night, she speaks to the king, telling him stories from her home, and acting wiser than he expects. When he grasps her hands, fire breathes between them, and each morning, she still lives. Slowly, the fire begins to take a life of its own, and the narrator sees things that haven't yet happened and her weaving itself tells stories too.
I loved this retelling. The magical elements keep the story fresh even when you know the general tale, and the main character is strong without being unbelievably fearless.