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Book of a Thousand Days Hardcover – September 18, 2007
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From School Library Journal
Grade 5–9—When Dashti the muckermaid from the steppes region throws in her lot with Lady Saren, little does she expect her loyalty to be tested by being bricked up in a tower with the Lady for seven years as punishment for Saren's refusal to marry the evil Lord Khasar, rather than her own preference, the handsome and gentle Khan Tagis. A series of first-person journal entries chronicle the differences between Dashti's resourceful, optimistic, and pragmatic personality and that of Lady Saren—a 16-year-old girl/woman who is prone to depression, fearful of the world, and unable to function independently. The full cast production of the fantasy by Shannon Hale (Bloomsbury, 2007) captures the lyricism of the author's language, although the voice of Dashti seems extremely young and naïve. The inclusion of many snippets of "healing songs" detracts from, rather than adds to, the story. Fans of Hale's previous books will enjoy this latest offering. Despite the somewhat predictable plot, the story is one of inspiration and hope.—Cindy Lombardo, Cleveland Public Library, IL
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
In this retelling of a brothers Grimm fairy tale, Chelsea Mixon ideally portrays Dashti, a servant bound to rebellious Lady Saren, whose role is read by Rozlyn Jakes-Johnson. The tale is told through Dashti’s journal entries, in which she recounts her imprisonment in a sealed tower with Lady Saren, who defied her father’s command to marry. Dashti’s communication with Khan Tegus (Saren’s true love), vanquishing of an evil tyrant, and eventual escape are among the plot developments. The story is perfect for a full-cast reading. All of the actors add layers of meaning, enlivening even the minor characters. Saren transforms from addled to self-assured, Khan Tegus (played by Conor Nolan) from romantic to ruler, and Dashti from subservient to self-confident. Mixon proves especially effective when singing melodic renditions of “healing songs.” An enchanting listening experience. Grades 6-9. --Mary Burkey --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Top customer reviews
OK. I absolutely loved this book (yay for full-cast-audio), and it would the BEST ever except for this one scene I didn't like (the way Dashti defeated the bad guy, but at least it worked). That's me, picky.
This book reminded me of Ella Enchanted in the sense that both authors use a lot of emotions to further the plot and side-characters that wreak havoc and the main character's love is in the dark about protagonist's biggest secret. SH, though, had a bigger overall plot involving countries, while GCL's was more compressed on a smaller scale within her own household (stepmother troubles and all that).
Oh, and I loved the worldbuilding here. What other fantasy story mentions a pet yak? The kingdom is ruled not by a king but a Kahn! Also, even the religious system is believable and well developed. The traditions, superstitions, history, and music are all well put together and just make the story even better. And the songs are simple but perfect.
Usually, I don't like journal stories, but SH pulled it off quite well. It's even better than The Goose Girl.
Why did journalling work as a medium for this story, but it doesn't work for other stories? Here are my guesses.
1, a lot of the conflicts lasted longer than one day. So, none of the danger was over when Dashti was penning the day's activities. She and Saren were still stuck in the tower, still starving. Sometimes Dashti even wrote in her journal while something was happening, and she would pause or sketch or wait in fear in the dark. This made the action feel real.
2, inner dialogue and reflections. Dashti often added her own commentary later. Things like, "I shouldn't have thought that about my lady; ancestors, forgive me!" or "Why didn't I say/do this?" or "I'll never forget the way he smells." It's delightful to read. We experience all her joy and regret with her.
3, the journal was a plot point. First, she's chronicling her days in the tower, and the journal would be there to explain why two female corpses are locked in a tower. Later, she's lying about everything, and the journal would get her killed if someone found it. So, it is important. It's like the reader gets to hold a piece of the world.
From the handmaiden Dashti's journal we see the events unfold that not only lead her Lady Saren to the tower, but also Dashti. Determined to keep an accurate recounting of their seven long years in the Tower, Dashti reports vary from the mundane ("My Lady doesn't recall squinting." pg. 24) to the frightening. Each entry is marked by the number of days they have been stuck inside the tower and Hale does an excellent job of communicating both Dashti's hope that things will work out and her despair that they will never see the sky again.
The book is separated into two parts. There is the first part, which speaks of their time in the Tower and the second part, which talks of the after. In the first part Saren does little more than complain, moan and make Dashti's life more difficult then it already is. The moments of peace that descend are too far between and by the end of the second year even Dashti is becoming sick of Saren's whining. The second part Saren becomes slightly less of a burden. She spends much of the first half of the second part still whining and scared, but a gift from Dashti and a job she is good at lifts her spirits a lot. I liked her better for the job, though what she continually asks of Dashti is beyond the pale.
The villain, Khasar, is despicable and terrifying. He sold his soul for a dark power that gives him an advantage, but makes him as inhuman as possible. How Dashti's deals with him is fitting. Saren's beau, Khan Tegus, is both flawed and perfect at the same time. He breaks his promise to Dashti and Saren, but when the true history between him and Saren is revealed is understandable.
The novel has a distinctly asian flair to it--from the pictures that 'Dashti' draws in her journals to the belief system, but it fits quite appropriately. There is a number of ironic twists, but this is basically a story driven by characters. Like every day life not everything that happens to Dashti is 'adventurous' or 'amazing'. We are basically reading her diary and like any other diary there are mundane things that are important to her, but not necessarily life shattering.
Book of a Thousand Days is a wonderful, amusing and thoughtful book that promotes a protagonist who isn't beautiful, but relies on her wits and her inherent good nature to survive. Dashti really epitomizes the old saying 'do good unto others' because proves it daily.
Unfortunately, the original fairy-tale, Maid Maleen, is rarely told anymore. It's about a beautiful lady whose father locks her in a tower for refusing to marry the man he chose for her. She awaits rescue, but when none comes, she up and rescues herself. And that's only the beginning.
In Book of a Thousand Days, Shannon Hale gives the story a few extra twists. Most importantly, the heroine is no longer the lady herself, but rather the lady's maid--Dashti, a mucker (the lowest kind of peasant). Dashti cooks, cleans, and plans for them both. She's the one who breaks them out of the tower, faces the villains, and (most difficult of all) cares for the childish, unstable Lady Saren with affection, humor, and patience.
As far as style goes, it's mostly well-written. Dashti narrates the story through her journal, and her upbeat nature makes for a fun read. I did feel that the dialogue sometimes got a bit awkward, but not enough to ruin the story.
As for the rest, of course there's adventure and romance, which I enjoy, but the part of the book that speaks to me most is the decision Dashti makes (and has to make again and again) to keep on giving, keep on loving, even when Saren's neediness has utterly drained her. That's the kind heroism and sacrifice I can truly admire.