Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book of a Thousand Days

Book of a Thousand Days
by Shannon Hale
Recommended Ages: 12+

Not many books figure in the plot they contain. This book, written as a diary of a lady's maid named Dashti, begins when she and her mistress, the Lady Saren, are walled up inside a tower for a seven-year sentence of darkness and solitude. By the end, the book ends up being used as evidence in a trial for Dashti's life. Welcome to an adaptation of the Grimm fairy tale of Maid Maleen.

The simple version of the story is complex enough. The young lady is being punished by her father because she is afraid to marry the powerful but evil lord who wants to wed her. Then she orders her maidservant to impersonate her while a nicer young lord woos her, because she is too nervous to be courted even by him. The maidservant falls in love with the young prince and he with her, but another princess grows jealous, exposes her and demands that she be put to death.

But that's just the nugget at the center of this richly layered story. It also spotlights Saren's struggle with mental illness, the horrors of long-term abuse and neglect, the possibilities of a brand of magic based on singing, the traps and troubles of a layered society based on eight very exacting gods, and Dashti's rise from a common "mucker" girl with no clan to claim her to marrying the highest ruler in the realm. Lying in wait for her are not only a fear-addled mistress who can order her to do things that will destroy her if she is caught and another princess who is watching for something to catch her in, but also a monster who is sometimes in human form... and sometimes not.

Styled like a tale of ancient days in the part of the world I like to call the Stans, this is a magical, romantic, and at times suspenseful tale from the author of the Books of Bayern quartet, the Princess Academy trilogy, the Austenland duo and some of the Ever After High books, among other interesting titles.

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