Book of a Thousand Days
As food runs low and the days go from broiling hot to freezing cold, it is all Dashti can do to keep them fed and comfortable.
But the arrival outside the tower of Saren's two suitors—one welcome, and the other decidedly less so—brings both hope and great danger, and Dashti must make the desperate choices of a girl whose life is worth more than she knows.
With Shannon Hale's lyrical language, this forgotten but classic fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm is reimagined and reset on the central Asian steppes; it is a completely unique retelling filled with adventure and romance, drama and disguise.
Based on an obscure Brothers Grimm fairy tale re-imagined and set in the central Asian steppes (think Mongolia), the Book of a Thousand Days does have a fairy tale-feel to it, but it is also grounded in the every day making it a good read for those looking for either romance or fantasy.
Dashti is a new ladys maid recently come down into the city from the steppes. On her first day on the job as the maid to Lady Saren, a princess, she finds out she is to be shut up with her new mistress in a tower for seven years because of Lady Sarens refusal to wed the man her father wants her to marry. You might think this would cause Dashti to despair, but to her, the idea of 7 years worth of food and a stable place to live doesnt actually sound that bad. Lady Saren, of course, has different ideas.
Lady Saren, in fact, is not much better than a spoiled, frightened rabbit for the first part of her captivity. She even makes Dashti pretend to be her when her suitors come (the bad one and the good one). Dashti continues to care for her nonetheless and does her best to make the time pass. A cat given to her by the good suitor (Khan Tegus) helps immensely, as do her own healing songs, taught to her by her mother.
Ultimately, they do escape the tower, only to find that the danger they were in is now greater than they imagined. I hate to give too much of this away as the joy is in the discovery, but suffice it to say that they do meet up again with Khan Tegus and that Dashtis life (and Lady Sarens) is forever altered by what Dashti finds the courage to do.
Wow, I feel like Im leaving lots of details out, but I really dont want to ruin this for you. I found this book to be a real gem and I read it in one sitting. And I hate to tell you Prize Bucket trawlers&this one is going to stay on my bookshelf. Im not giving it up.
Recommended for readers aged 12 and up, especially fantasy lovers, but also those looking for romance and adventure and a strong female lead character (Dashti is a wonderful character, with pluck and resourcefulness -- you will definitely find yourself rooting for her and even for Lady Saren).
This is a retelling of the little known Grimm Brothers tale "Maid
Maleen,' but fairly drastically reworked. Dashti was born a mucker girl
on the Asian Steppes, but when her mother dies and she has no family
left, she finds work as a ladies maid for Lady Saren, daughter of the
ruler of Titor's Garden. But when Dashti arrives to begin her work, she
learns Lady Saren is to be shut up in a tower for seven years for
disobeying her father and refusing to marry Lord Khasar; and Dashti
must be shut up with her if she is to fulfill her vows as a ladies
maid. What follows is the Dashti's telling (via a diary with
brush-and-ink illustrations) of her entombment with Saren, and their
adventures there after, from the terror of Lord Khasar to Dashti's
healing mucker songs, to Khan Tegus, the nice, funny and out of reach
ruler who may hold the keys to the girls' freedom.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. In fact, I stayed up half the
night reading it (just one more page-ing myself to death). There was a
slight magical realism feel to it. Dashti ia an intersting character,
very intelligent and strong, but also very meek and hyper-aware of her
"place." It is enjoyable to watch her grow and come into her own. Lady
Saren, who is very troubled and somewhat annoying, is also an enjoyable
character, even in spite of her "unenjoyableness" because it is equally
pleasant to watch her grow and heal as well. Lord Khasar is truly
terrifying; so many of the characters are fully realized and engaging,
as is the world.
Hale's reworking of the tale is fascinating, and expands
beautifully on the original (which I looked up and read when I
finished). The changes she makes make sense and add to the story
The only drawbacks for me were:
-- there are times when Dashti's storytelling is too sedate.
-- The Lord Khasar thread is tied up a little too quickly and
conveniently. There are things I really liked about it, and I liked
what it brought out in Dashti, and the choices she made, but I would
have liked a little more build-up and tension in the actual resolution.
-- on a personal note, the names of places sometimes got to me. I
don't know if they were traditional or made-up, but the constant
repetition was a bit irritating.
Overall, though, I would definitely recommend this to fans of Hale, fairy tale retellings, strong female characters, etc.
Lady Saren and her ladys maid Dashti, a common mucker from the dirt-poor steppes, are bricked up in a stone tower when Lady Saren refuses to marry the cruel Lord Khasar. Lady Saren frets and seems to welcome death, but the illustrious Dashti decides to keep a journal of their imprisonment in between her ladys maid duties. She also sings mucker healing songs to attempt to lift her ladys aches and complaints, often to no avail. All is dark and depressing within the tower, but Dashti never succumbs to the nightmares and mental anguish.
At first her strength is helped by the visits of Khan Tegus, the man that Lady Saren claimed she was betrothed in order to get out of the marriage to Lord Khasar. She speaks to him as Lady Saren on her ladys orders, and he helps her remember what it was like to be alive and living under the blue sky. However, it cannot last. Khan Tegus returns to his own realm, to be replaced by Lord Khasar, who slaps Dashtis hands against the tower walls and flicks fiery pellets at them through the waste door.
Dashti thought life within the tower with her sullen lady was hard, but her real challenge begins after they manage to escape the tower and trek all the way to Khan Tegus realm, to end up in his house as servants. Faced with an imminent threat of Lord Khasar and his armies, with Lady Saren too scared to do anything, Dashti must reach inside to find, within her simple healing songs, courage she never believed possible. Her actions may cost her her life, but it just might also bring her happiness she never thought was in her reach.
BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS is lyrical and, quite simply, lovely. Shannon Hales wonderful way with words flows out of Dashtis own pen, unobstructed. This novel was a sweet treat to read.
By the author of the Princess Academy, Dashti is a mucker, a type of people who live in tents on the steppes of this imaginary kingdom of The Eight Realms. She arrives at her new job as a ladys maid to the second daughter of the Lord of Titors Garden just in time to pledge to the princess that she will never leave her. She doesnt know that the princess has just been sentenced, by her father, to be bricked up into a tower for 7 years because she refuses to marry the Lord of Thoughts of Under. Dashti is now committed to going with the princess into lock up. They have food stores for 7 years and are brought milk daily by guards. Dashti doesnt really think being locked away is as bad as Princess Saren thinks. Dashtis delight at the stockpiling of 7 YEARS of food is hilarious. The whole book doesnt take place in the tower, as after a while, they escape and get caught in the political turmoil in the Kingdom.
I loved this book! The clearly drawn character of Dashti is a good part of the reason why. But I also cared about what happened to Saren, even though shes not as brave, smart or funny as Dashti. The mark of a really excellent writer is when you care about the welfare of characters that you dont really like that much.
The prose is very well-written, Dashi says a number of very quotable things, its very clear exactly why the characters are behaving the way they are, the plot moves right along and unlike many fantasy YA books, I didnt have to suspend my disbelief at all. The romance is believable and light.
Must Read! (And now I must go read all of Shannon Hales other books!)