Book of a Thousand Days: Two girls trapped in a tower

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsBook of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsBook of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

With Book of a Thousand Days (2007), Shannon Hale offers a delightful retelling of the Grimm fairy tale Maid Maleen.

Dashti is a mucker, a low-born girl who was born on the steppes. When her mother dies, she goes to the city to take a job as a maid to Lady Saren. Right away she is locked into a tower with her lady because, in defiance of her father’s wishes, Saren has refused to marry Lord Khasar. She says she plans to marry Lord Tegan instead. Dashti and Saren must stay in the tower until either Saren repents and agrees to marry Lord Khasar, or seven years have passed.

For Dashti, who narrates the story via diary entries, things aren’t so bad at first. There’s plenty of food, she gets to sleep by the fire, and she has parchment to write upon. But Lady Saren turns out to be useless, spending her days silent, moping, and eating too quickly through their store of food. When Lord Tegan, the young man Saren supposedly loves, comes to talk to her through the door, she refuses to meet with him and even sends Dashti to impersonate her.

It gradually becomes clear to Dashti that Saren’s mind is paralyzed by fear and, after a few visits from Lord Khasar, Dashti begins to suspect there’s some trauma involved and that Saren has a good reason for refusing to marry the intimidating man. It will be up to Dashti to figure out how to escape the tower and Lord Khasar, and how to make a new life for herself and her lady.

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsI listened to the audiobook version of Book of a Thousand Days with my daughter. We enjoyed this sweet and simple story of sacrifice, loyalty, perseverance, and love. Dashti is a pleasant storyteller with a sharp eye for detail and a good ear for the rhythm of the story.

Anyone who’s familiar with Shannon Hale’s work will almost immediately identify Book of a Thousand Days as one of hers and will be able to guess where it’s going. The scenes where Dashti and Lord Tegan are talking (and possibly falling in love with each other) are particularly recognizable. Their cute teasing banter (accompanied by occasional snorting laughter) as their friendship grows is a common occurrence in Hale’s stories. Also familiar is the way Dashti, who thought she was born to serve the gentry, gradually begins to realize that’s not how things should be. The similarity in tone, theme, and characterization to other Hale works was a slight disappointment to me but my daughter, who isn’t familiar with Hale’s oeuvre, didn’t feel this way at all, of course. We both appreciated learning about a Grimm fairy tale that we were unacquainted with.

Chelsea Mixon, the narrator of Blackstone Audio’s edition, was a nice choice for Dashti’s voice. We loved listening to her.

Published in 2007. From New York Times bestselling, Newbery Honor-winning author Shannon Hale comes a Brothers Grimm fairy tale retelling about mistaken identity and love gone awry. When Lady Saren refuses to marry a man she fears, she and her maid, Dashti, are locked in a tower with just a tiny flap open to the outside world. As food runs low and the weather changes from broiling hot to unbearably cold, it is all Dashti can do to make them comfortable in their dark prison. Not long after their confinement begins, Saren’s suitors arrive — one welcome, the other less so — and she orders Dashti to speak to them. Impersonating Lady Saren is a crime punishable by death, but Dashti will have to play the role many times if she is to save them both from the tower and the dangers outside. As she takes control of their desperate situation, Dashti begins to understand her own astonishing talents and believe that even a low-born maid can find true love.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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