BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS
by Shannon Hale - Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2009
ages mid-teen right up to adult (say 14+) / young adult
If I had to pick a favourite reading genre it would definitely be Young Adult Fantasy.
I think it’s because when I read to relax and escape (which is often), YA fantasy delivers great story without so much of the ‘grit’ that's in older-adult books.
And I find, when looking through my library, that my preference is clearly for female lead characters. Especially those with strong spirits, courage and kindness. Dashti from Book of a Thousand Days is just such a character.
The story follows Dashti, a simple mucker from the steppes of Titor's Garden, on an extraordinary journey. (I love a good fractured fairytale, and this one is especially interesting - it's loosely based on the Grimm Brothers' Maid Maleen and retold in the world of the central Asian steppes, think Mongolia.)
When Dashti is offered the chance to be a Lady’s maid she looks on it as an honour, even with conditions that have all the other maids fleeing in fear - Lady Saren is to be locked in a tower by her father for seven years for refusing to marry the sinister Lord Khasar!
Dashti, who doesn’t expect much from life, can only see the silver lining - as in:
Here’s the bit that makes me tremble with delight – in our cellar there is a mountain of food! Barrels and bags and crates of it. And we have a fine well dug right in the cellar floor. My lady is napping in her chamber, so I just come down here to look at the food. Seven years’ worth. Such a thing I never imagined. Even though I can’t see the sky, it’s hard not to want to dance about, knowing that for seven years at least I won’t starve. That’s paradise for a mucker like me.
But then the rats take over and the food runs out. Dashti and Lady Saren have no choice but to break out - only to find that the world has changed and nothing is as it was.
Here begins another adventure and through it all Dashti’s strength and sacrifice never falter. In the end her kindness, hard work, loyalty and humility allow her to overcome the frightful Lord Khasar and find love in an unexpected place.
This a must-read if you enjoy books that have strong female characters, that beautifully re-imagine a fairy tale, are full of friendship and loyalty, are a sweet love story and are just plain beautifully written! Told in the first person by Dashti, this story digs deep into the mind and heart of a beautiful, strong, courageous and kind character.
Also... this post by Jesse.