Sunday, June 22, 2008

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

Book of a Thousand Days

Book of a Thousand Days
by Shannon Hale

Hardback: 306 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
First Released: 2007

Source: Library

Back Cover Blurb:
When Dashti, a maid, and Lady Saren, her mistress, are shut in a tower for seven years because of Saren's refusal to marry a man she despises, the two prepare for a very long and dark imprisonment.

As food runs low and the days go from boiling hot to freezing cold, it is all Dashti can do to keep them fed and comfortable. With the arrival outside the tower of Saren's two suitors--one welcome, the other decidedly less so--the girls are confronted with both hope and great danger, and Dashti must make the desperate choices of a girl whose life is worth more than she knows.

This little-known classic fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm is reimagined and reset on the central Asian steppes.

This is a "fairy tale re-telling" based on a Grimm's fairy tale. The story is written in a "diary entry" format, which I usually find distracting (you're never really "there as it happens" and boring minutia is often added which slows the pacing).

Since this story covers almost four years, the diary-entry style actually works fairly well. It allowed the author to give us a sense of their lives in the tower, then focus only on the exciting parts. The entries were never boring and were always written from the point of view of "as it happened" rather than "what I think about what happened," which kept the excitement and suspense up.

The world-building in this book is good and the characters act and change realistically throughout the book. The romance in the story develops slowly. There are a few kisses, but no sex. Overall, I'd recommend this as "a good, clean fun" novel.

Excerpt: Chapter One
Day 1
My lady and I are being shut up in a tower for seven years. Lady Saren is sitting on the floor, staring at the wall, and hasn't moved even to scratch for an hour or more. Poor thing. It's a shame I don't have fresh yak dung or anything strong-smelling to scare the misery out of her.

The men are bricking up the door, and I hear them muttering and scraping cement. Only a small square of unbricked sky and light still gape at me. I smile back at its mean grin to show I'm not scared. Isn't it something, all the trouble they're going to for us? I feel like a jewel in a treasure box, though my lady is the--

My lady suddenly awoke from her stupor and sprang at the door, clawing at the brick, trying to shove her way out. How she screamed! Like an angry piglet.

"Stay in!" we heard her honored father say. He must have been standing near the opening. "Stay until your heart softens like long-boiled potatoes. And if you try to break your way out, I've told the guards to kill you on sight. You have seven years to think about disobedience. Until you are meek with regret, your face turns my stomach."

I nearly warned him that such words would bring him bad luck and canker his own heart. Thank the Ancestors that my lady's fit stopped me from speaking out of turn. When I pulled her back, her hands were red from beating at the bricks and streaked with wet cement. This isn't exactly a happy-celebration morning, but I don't see what good it does to thrash about.

"Easy, my lady," I said, the way I'd speak to a feisty ram. It wasn't too hard to hold my lady back, even squirming as she was. I'm fifteen years, and though skinny as a skinned hare, I'm strong as a yak, or so my mama used to say. I sang the calming song, the one that goes, "Oh, moth on a wind, oh, leaf on a stream," and invited the hearer into dreaming. I feared my lady was so angry she wouldn't heed the song. But she must've been eager to sleep, because now she's snoring on my lap. Happily the brush and ink are at hand so I can keep writing. When you can't move, there isn't much to do but think, and I don't much want to think right now.

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