Reviewed January 8, 2008.
Bloomsbury, New York, 2007. 306 pages.
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2007: #1, Teen Fiction
I picked up many Advanced Reading Copies of books at the ALA Conference last June, but the one I was by far the most excited about was Shannon Hale's new book, Book of a Thousand Days.
Mucker maid Dashti lost everything when her mother died, so she went to the city to learn to be a lady's maid. When she comes to the palace, the princess needs a maid--because her father is sealing her into a tower for a thousand days because she has refused to marry the powerful ruler of the neighboring land.
Dashti is willing to be shut up in the tower with the princess and food for a thousand days. But when rival suitors show up outside the tower, events don't turn out as expected. Can Dashti help her lady survive?
In many ways, Book of a Thousand Days reminds me of The Goose Girl, the book that made me fall in love with Shannon's writing. Both books are lovely retellings of Grimm fairy tales. Both are phenomenal--wonderfully romantic, with a touch of politics and intrigue. In both, the fantasy is done with a light touch.
Both books also involve a servant passing herself off as her Princess mistress. However, the two situations are complete opposites. In The Goose Girl, the lady-in-waiting usurps her mistress's place. In Book of a Thousand Days, the humble servant only carries out the deception because of the orders of the fear-filled princess.
In both books, we see character growth that rings true, and beautifully blossoming love, along with the forming of deep friendships during adversity.
I'm afraid I'm starting to get skeptical about the romantic heroes in Shannon's books. They are too wonderful! I'm starting to think they are a woman's idea of the perfect man (They certainly fit my idea of the perfect man!), and a real living breathing man could never come close.
But so what?! The magic in the book is done with a light touch, so it doesn't hurt a bit to add another element of fantasy!
This story is simple, and so beautifully told. Why does it strike me as one of the best books I've ever read? I don't think I can put my finger on the external ingredients that make it so. All I know is that it touches my heart.