When Quinn @ Quinn’s Book Nook introduced me to another great work of Shannon Hale, I immediately added this book to my reading list and started looking for a copy at one of our local bookstores. Who knew this book would turn out to be another fantastic retelling?
Here’s the summary from the back cover of the book:
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 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.
To be locked up in a tower for seven years is an unimaginable thing to experience. Lady Saren and Dashti are not able to escape this punishment due to Lady Saren’s refusal to marry Lord Khasar. After finding out that the father is the one who executes the punishment somehow angers me. The father’s act alone proves his cowardice and inferiority toward Lord Khasar. On the other hand, as I slowly learn Lady Saren’s fear toward Lord Khasar as well, I couldn’t help but be intrigued about what Lord Khasar possesses that is being feared by many.
Book of a Thousand Days sets itself apart from the other retellings I’ve read in terms of the setting. Evident from the book cover, the story is set in Asia. Surprisingly, there are illustrations included in the book which describes some characters and some of the occurrences happened that will make readers conclude the setting, too. Shannon Hale strategically designed the story in the format of a journal. Dashti, the protagonist, owns the book and recounts her experiences as Lady Saren’s maid. The number of days indicates the length of time they spend in the tower and the days after they escape.
Reading into the thoughts and feelings of Dashti easily makes me sympathize with her. It’s like a friendship has been formed between us that as I read her entries, I want to comfort her and make her feel she’s not alone. I admire her bravery by being selfless and loyal to Lady Saren. I don’t think I would’ve done the things she did. While she is ordered to pretend to be Lady Saren, her striking personality still outshines her pretentions. She is able to incorporate her own self while being Lady Saren. She has the most dynamic characterization of all characters and readers can witness how she changes and slowly matures.
Lady Saren impresses me the same towards the end, but during the first part, I want to get some sense out of her. Just like Dashti’s thoughts, I couldn’t understand her emotional breakdowns. While the story evidently centers on Dashti, I do kind of hoped that the characterizations of the others are explored in depth as well.
I wouldn’t have known the story of Maid Maleen if it weren’t for this book. In fact, I haven’t heard of nor read the original tale until now. Shannon Hale certainly did an amazing job retelling the story. The concept and the foundation of the original tale are still there, but Shannon Hale took the liberty to create her own story, adding more locations, characters, and unexpected twists that will keep you guessing. It’s strikingly awesome to see that the cultural background of the story becomes significant in the flow and outcome of the story. Shannon Hale, without a doubt, succeeds in narrating the story descriptively and beautifully. Overall, this is another wonderful read. I definitely enjoyed it from beginning until end. Book of a Thousand Days is a one of a kind retelling I’ve read so far.