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,m is is all Dashti can do to make them comfortable in their dark prison.
Not long after their confinement begins, Saren’s suitors arrive- one welcome, 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 outside. 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.
When Dashti arrives in the city, recently orphaned and looking for work, the last thing she expected was to be imprisoned in a tower with a young noble woman that she only just met. Though rather than sharing her lady’s despair, Dashti is delighted at the turn of events which guarantees her seven years worth of food and lodging. But the tower in which Dashti and Lady Saren are confined fails to protect them from foul weather, rats that come nibbling at the food or the dangerous man who is determined to get a hold of Lady Saren. And since Lady Saren is able to do little but cry and mourn it is up to Dashti to care for them both, even if it means breaking the strict laws which she has always been so respectful of.
I’m not familiar with the Brothers Grimm fairytale "Maid Maleen" but I very much enjoyed this retelling of it by Shannon Hale. At first Dashti comes across as overly obedient and naïve though it quickly becomes apparent that she is actually a very strong young woman, one whose loyalty and resourcefulness will help keep both her and Lady Saren alive. Through her daily journal entries, written in an earnest and entertaining manner, we get to know Dashti and we learn the story of how she and Lady Saren came to be locked up in the tower, and what eventually becomes of the two of them.
While I often avoid reading books writing in journal or letter format I think it worked very well here, breaking up the story into individual days and providing an intimate look into Dashti’s thoughts and personality. Hale skillfully develops the complex relationship between the low-born Dashti and the Lady Saren as well as the sweet romance between Dashti and Kahn Tegus, the noble that Lady Saren had hoped to marry. I also thought it was interesting that the story’s main character is not the noble woman locked in the tower but her maid, who only stumbled into the story by chance, though I do wish that Lady Saren’s character had been fleshed out just a bit more.
Book of a Thousand Days was a very enjoyable and entertaining read with a wonderfully strong and compelling heroine. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fairy tale retellings or just a good, well written, romantic fantasy. I now look forward to trying out some of Shannon Hale's other books as well.