Title: Book of a Thousand Days
Author(s): Shannon Hale
Genre: YA Fantasy Fairy Tale Retelling
Page Count: 306
Summary: When Lady Saren refuses to marry a man she fears, she and her maid, Dashti, are locked in a tower with just a tiny flap open to the outside world. As food runs low and the weather changes from broiling hot to unbearably cold, it is all Dashti can do to make them comfortable in their dark prison.
Not long after their confinement begins, Saren's suitors arrive-one welcom, the other less so-and she orders Dashti to speak to them. Impersonating Lady Saren is a crime punishable by death, but Dashti will have to play the role many times if she is to save them both from the tower and the dangers outisde. As she takes control of their desperate situation, Dashti begins to understand her own astonishing talents and believe that even a low-born maid can find true love.
The Review: First off, this is the first time I ever came across a YA fairy tale novel retelling that wasn't set in Europe. Can I say LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT?! And the world was very distinctly Mongolian, from the food they ate to the clothes they wore and just, everything. . ♥ I thought Hale did a very through research, personally. Also helping with the setting is an inclusion of the map in the Bloomsbury USA version, and all the little illustrations inserted all throughout the novel. This novel has a very strong sense of place, a well-grounded setting, and I really appreciate this aspect.
I really enjoyed the diary format of the novel. We get a very strong closed 1st person perspective this way and our narrator Dashti is very sweet and strong-willed and fun to read from. The illustrations drawn in are very effective and flow well with the diary format. In short, no complaints, and very enjoyable writing that flows well and is easy to read.
If I must be critical about this book, it’d be the whole Villainous Evil Characters of Irredeemable Evil. Khasar was evil and even animalistic about his villainy. (Yes, they went there.) Vachir the love rival had no redeeming qualities. Also problematic was how the whole classicism thing was dealt with. I don’t think Hale subverted the princess and the maid dynamic as much as she could have. Saren still, for the most part, held too much commanding power all the way to the end over Dashti for me to really think of their relationship as equals. SPOILERS FOR ENDING (thanks to ninefly for helping me with spoiler tag: [I thought they didn’t challenge the class issue enough with Dashti and Tegus either and the ending really didn’t help matters. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the ending and was really happy that Dashti and Tegus ended up together at the end but on retrospect it was still problematic. I mean, the reason why Dashti was able to be Tegus’ bride was by becoming gentry herself. In other words, she must change her status as mucker, a very essential part of her identity, in order to marry him. That does not send out a particularly positive message nor subvert classicism problems, so. =/]
The romance between our heroine and the requisite prince is adorable and sweet as required out of the fairytale. I will not lie, while reading the book, towards the end I was like “I do not CARE what unrealistic deus ex machina move they pull, TEGUS AND DASHTI MUST END UP TOGETHER AND GET MARRIED, DAMNIT.” I don’t think it’s particularly spoilery on my part to admit that this fairy tale retelling gave us our Happily Ever After in spades.
Anyhow, this is a lush, beautiful fairy tale retelling set in a fantastical Ancient Mongolian universe that will deliver on all the troupes that every fairy tale must have yet exploring the vast and fascinating world and the characters in ways only the length of a novel can allow. Highly recommended for those who love their fairy tales
Title and Cover Discussion: I’m not sure how to feel about the title. I mean, on one hand it’s rather eye-catching, but on the other if we calculate the days it wasn’t exactly a thousand days. (It’s 1110 if we want to be exact.) But hey, in history we often aren’t exact about numbers either, so I don’t begrudge that. (The Hundred Year War wasn’t for a hundred years, the 300 spartans wasn’t exactly 300, etc etc) Also, the cover I received was the Bloomsbury USA paperback one so I got a face on my cover! Which made me really happy, since this may be the only YA fairy tale retelling that had a heroine so blatantly Asian on the cover. So much better than the hardcover, which I noticed it simply showed her hands holding a book. x.x I love the font for the title too and thought it looks really pretty with the cover et all. =D
Cover: A++++ (for the paperback. The hardcover version can bite me)