Nancy O'Toole's Reviews > Book of a Thousand Days

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
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Oct 22, 10

bookshelves: fantasy, young-adult, maine-student-book-awards, favorites
Read in January, 2009

On her first day of becoming Lady Saren’s maid, Dashti learns that her new mistress has refused to marry a powerful man. For punishment, both Saran and Dashti are to be locked in a tower for seven years. Saren immediately falls into depression, and later, madness, but Dashti, who grew up in poverty cannot help but rejoice in the fact that she will be able to eat three whole meals a day for seven years. But as time passes, their food storage is depleted well before it’s time due to a rat infestation and Saren’s hungry stomach. Even the ever positive Dashti cannot keep her spirits up. She knows that if they don’t find a way out soon, both of them will die.

I’ve always enjoyed Shannon Hale’s book. She has a wonderful, beautiful way of writing that is simple yet elegant, much like the fairy tales which her books are often based on. Book of a Thousand Days is roughly based on Maid Maleen, a little known brother’s Grimm tale about a noble woman and her maid who are locked in a tower for seven years. Shannon Hale diverges a lot from the original tale, first by choosing to tell the story from the maid’s point of view. This is a very good decision. Dashti is an amazingly likable character. One can’t help but admire her for her courage and ability to see the best in every situation. It’s a joy to watch her develop from a very innocent peasant girl, to, by the books end, a hero. The diary format in which she tells her tale is quite intimate, and draws the reader in right away. I typically don’t cry during books, but I got quite teary eyed when Dashti reflected on how she felt when she lost her mother.

Another thing I enjoyed about this book was its unique setting. The Eight Realms is based on Mongolia. I have never seen a fantasy book based here before. The author gives us plenty of details about its history, food, folklore, and other aspects of its culture, and she does so without bogging down the narrative with details. One thing I liked was the mucker healer songs, which are simple, almost nonsensical songs that have the ability to help heal physical or mental pain. Shannon Hale has used songs in her past book, the Princess Academy, as well. One has to wonder if she has an interest in music, or the power of songs.

I highly recommend Book of a Thousand Days to those who are looking for a well written fantasy tale, set in a unique setting, with a satisfying ending.
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