This book by Shannon Hale (author and Twitter-er extraordinaire whose books I’ve been working my way through recently) is a retelling of an Asian fairy tale. It’s similar to Rapunzel in that a young girl gets locked in a tower, but this time she has a maid with her. The maid’s name is Dashti. She’s a mucker, one of the very lower classes, but she doesn’t mind. She venerates gentry, however, so when she finds out that Lady Saren’s father is going to lock her in a tower until she agrees to marry the husband he has selected for her, Dashti volunteers to be locked in with her.
The book of a thousand days is Dashti’s journal, which she means to be a record of their years in the tower. But things don’t go as planned. Eventually, on the brink of starvation, Dashti and Lady Saren make their escape–and find that everything has changed in their world.
First, let’s talk about the characters, and why Shannon Hale is such a wonderful writer. Hale’s characters have a way of stubbornly attaching themselves to you. She writes fantastically flawed female characters, neither totally beautiful nor incredibly sweet nor bulletproof. Dashti grew up in the dirt and hunger of poverty, but she was happy. Her mother cared for her and taught her the healing songs that the muckers know, which reminded me of the linder speak from the Princess Academy books. Even with her mother gone and with a terrible birthmark across her face, Dashti does the best she can to serve her country, but she’s not always happy about it. Lady Saren can be a pain, and despite Dashti’s veneration for the upper class, she finds herself having to take charge in their awful circumstances.
This book, like The Goose Girl, can be dark–the burned skulls in the city really stuck with me. But the magic still shines through the darkness. It’s a fitting addition to my collection of Shannon Hale books, and my respect for her plots and characters continues to grow.
Rating: Pretty Darn Good