Friday, September 11, 2009

Book of a Thousand Days

Hale, Shannon. Book of a Thousand Days. New York: Bloomsbury, 2007.

Dashti’s elation at being Lady Saren’s new maid soon fades when she finds herself locked in a tower with said lady. Saren refuses to marry Lord Khasar because she loves Khan Tegus. Her disobedience merits exile in the tower for seven years. Dashti records their days in a journal. She has much to contend with—Lady Saren’s melancholy and rats that eat their precious food supplies. Khan Tegus visits them at the tower. Saren makes Dashti pretend to be her. Dashti is much taken with the khan.

After several disasters—Lord Khasar’s torture, the disappearance of their cat who kept the rats at bay, and the end of their food supplies—the girls emerge from the tower after 932 days. They find Saren’s home and family destroyed. They journey to Khan Tegus’ land. What will they find there?

What I thought: This was a riveting read. I couldn’t put it down. I like the diary format. After I finished reading the book, I turned to the original fairy tale “Maid Maleen” in my trusty Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales. The more fairy tale retellings that I read, the more I prefer them to the original tales. In “Maid Maleen,” the lady’s maid didn’t have a name and wasn’t important to the narrative. I suppose Hale recognized that a lady’s maid would be indispensible to a lady of quality. Just as some choose to tell the story of the stepsisters or the evil queen, Hale chose to tell the story of the unnamed maid. I find her novel to be vibrant, lush, and teeming with cultural detail. I love the Asian setting Hale gave the story.

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