Wednesday, 2 May 2012
Review: Book of a Thousand Days
Author: Shannon Hale
Illustrator: James Noel Smith
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication Date: September 18th, 2007
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retellings
When the Lady Saren refuses to marry the man her father has chosen for her, Lord Khashar, she is locked inside a tall guarded tower with her maid Dashti. With no light and mountains of food, the girls are to remain inside the tower for the next seven years, or until Saren changes her mind. While Saren is stricken with grief over losing her life, Dashti is just happy to have enough to eat and writes about their days in her diary. When the Khan, the man Saren chose to marry instead of Lord Khashar, comes to speak to Saren from afar, she asks her maid to pretend to be her. When Lord Khashar arrives, Dashti begins to learn why Saren chose to be locked in a tower for seven years rather than marry him. As Dashti tries to protect herself and her Lady, she will have to rely on her bravery and skills if she wants to save not only Ladu Saren, but everyone.
This book is a retelling of The Brother’s Grimm’s Maid Maleen. It is told through diary entries by Dashti, a Muller maid, who occasionally draws pictures of the things around her. I wasn’t familiar with the original story, but I love fairy tale retellings for bringing new life to old stories. Dashti is a strong, resourceful and unlikely heroine, who meets her unfortunate situation with optimism. I never warmed to Saren, who is Dashti’s complete opposite. I thought she was cowardly and selfish, and I wished we got to see her bond more with Dashti during their time in the tower. However, she becomes stronger towards the end of the story. Together, the girls are locked in the tower for over two years. You would assume that this would make a boring book, but the story was well paced with plenty of excitement and romance. The romance in this book was well developed and just sweet. One of the book’s greatest strengths is the world the author created, with the story set in a land reminiscent of Asia. Shannon Hale writes lyrical prose that helps her make an old story feel new again. As a fairy tale retelling, this book provided a new take on the old story that makes it worthwhile for lovers of updated fairy tales. While I’m not always a fan of epistolary novels, it worked well in this story. Book of a Thousand Days contains many of the things that make people love fairy tales: magic, love, royalty and true heroes.
“Mama used to say, you have to know someone a thousand days before you can glimpse her soul.”