Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

Shannon Hale has not been one of my favorite children's writers. A perennial on the two star and best of lists, her works have typically left me cold, and the arrival of a new book often makes me groan about having to read another Shannon Hale book. Well, this book finally made me understand what the reviewers see in her. Book of a Thousand Days is a fast moving tale of two young women walled up in a tower. Basing her book on a Grimm Fairy Tale called "Maid Maleen," Hale takes the basic structure of the story and transfers it to a quasi-Mongolian setting. The story follows a serving maid named Dashti, who finds herself walled into a tower with her mistress, who has angered her father by refusing to marry the man he has selected for her. The two are to be walled in for seven years. Gradually, the food goes from plentiful to scarce, rats begin to eat the stores, and Dashti impersonates her mistress while speaking to the lad to whom the lady had promised herself. Eventually, the guards stop bringing food, and the girls are alone. Dashti finally breaks out to find that the country has been laid waste, and no one remains. The two young women wander to the land of the lady's betrothed and end up as kitchen maids in the palace. What happens after this strains credulity for an adult, but I think 5th-8th grade girls who like princess or fairy tales will find the tale both engrossing and satisfying. Note that the younger level I recommend this to would have to be strong, motivated readers - the book is not slim.

Click here to read the original Grimm tale online:

Here's a link to Hale's website including info about the book.

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