Happy Friday, y’all!
I hope you are finding things to do and ways to get outside this week! We’re hoping real spring weather is coming our way soon.
Today I am here to share a review of Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale. I reread this book at the start of this year when I was on a bit of a Shannon Hale kick. I’ve raved about her novels here before. Check out my reviews of two of my favorite Shannon Hale novels The Goose Girl and Princess Academy (plus a few more on my Reviews Page). I haven’t reviewed this particular novel here before because it’s been years since I read it (pre-blog days). I’m excited to share some thoughts on this lesser known retelling of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale.
- This is a stand alone novel which is less common for Shannon Hale. It boasts all the things I love about Hale’s writing: clever characters, unique settings, and beautiful storytelling.
- How beautiful is this new cover below? I own an older copy but I feel like I might need to own this one just because it’s so pretty. They have a new cover set of the Books of Bayern that is done in this style as well.
According to Goodreads, “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 broiling 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.
With Shannon Hale’s lyrical language, this little-known classic fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm is reimagined and reset on the central Asian steppes; it is a completely unique retelling filled with adventure and romance, drama and disguise.”
I loved Dashti, the protagonist and unlikely heroine of this story. She starts the story as a fairly naive servant who is nonetheless loyal and hardworking. But soon she learns how strong and important she can be regardless of her circumstances. She grows in amazing ways during this story. I love her faith, her determination, her strength, and her sweet love. I love the healing songs and the ways Dashti uses song to help understand pain, heal injury, and understand emotions. I also like that the receiver of the song much accept it in someway for it to work. Such a beautiful idea! In the end, it is Dashti that falls in love, Dashti that saves her mistress and her country, and Dashti that deserves a beautiful happily ever after. Dashti is a character we can all relate to and certainly can all cheer for.
This fairy tale retelling has an exciting plot with engaging twists only Shannon Hale could create. I think it’s so interesting that this is based on a lesser known Brothers Grimm fairy tale–Maid Maleen. I didn’t remember that until this reread. And I must admit I hadn’t heard of that fairy tale until I looked up the details after finishing this story. It’s a fairly simply tale about a girl locked in a tower for refusing to marry a man when she loved someone else. Hale takes this simple story and creates a vibrant, engaging plot that surprises readers around every turn. From the scary living conditions in the tower (rats eat their food [YUCK!], freezing temperatures in the winter, fire, corrupt guards, and lack of knowledge of the outside world) to the difficult life outside the tower walls, Dashti and Saren must struggle to survive and fight for what they believe in. I couldn’t put this book down and read it quickly. I bet you’ll do the same.
The style of the book is very clever-written as a journal over more than 1000 days. Dashti starts by writing nearly everyday but then has large gaps as life gets difficult or boring. It is an easy way to get into her head and really get to know Dashti’s character despite only getting pieces of her daily life. The simple way Dashti tells her story is easy to read quickly (again, I reread the whole thing in less than a day) and makes this a great book for younger readers. That being said, be aware of some intense/graphic moments: intense violence with wolves, some nudity, and angry interactions between characters. None of these is inappropriate or overwhelming, but there are definitely some intense moments. My favorite parts of the story are the ways Dashti writes her interactions with Khan Tegus–a suitor of Saren’s and ruler of one of the kingdoms of their land. I loved seeing their relationship grow and the way they built each other up.
I am so glad I reread this book! Why did I not give this 5 stars before? It’s clever, engaging, meaningful, and beautiful. The themes of loyalty, family, true love, survival, and overcoming intense trials are great lessons for young readers to encounter. I think this story could provoke some great discussions between kids as they understand this world and these themes that are so applicable to our own lives. Plus, the happy ending is fantastic. A great middle grade fantasy!
What are some of your favorite fairy tale retellings?
Do you prefer lesser known retellings or retellings of your favorite classics?