December 12, 2007

Book of a Thousand Days

By Shannon Hale
Rating: 4 1/4 stars
Reviewed by Noelle

With a small nod to the fairy tale of Rapunzel, Hale writes a hard to put down piece of fiction. Dashti is a "mucker," a commoner alone in the world after the death of her mother. Muckers are well known for their healing songs which ease pain and suffering. With nowhere to turn, Dashti goes to seek training as a maid in the royal city. She is assigned to the Lady Saren, a royal lady Dashti's own age, who makes her swear to stay with her. Little does Dashti know that Saren has just been sentenced by her own father to be locked in a tower for seven years--or until she agrees to marry the fearsome Lord Khasar. Dashti keeps a journal of their trials in their prison, including visits from Khan Tegus, Saren's long distance lover, and from the evil Lord Khasar himself. But after two and a half years, Dashti finds a way for them to escape the tower, only to find the country destroyed; laid to waste by the ambitious Khasar. Their best hope is to travel to Song of Evela and to throw themselves on the mercy of Khan Tegus. But Lady Saren seems mentally unstable and unable to care for herself, and Dashti finds herself forced to be leader and nursemaid. When finally the pair reach the Khan's home, Saren refuses to reveal herself and word on the street is that Lord Khasar is on his way to attack Song of Evela, too. Dashti is brought to the Khan to sing the healing songs for his old leg pain; should she take the chance to unmask Saren when so much depends upon it? Hard choices, bravery, songs, romance, loyalty and duty are all major plot themes and will keep readers turning the pages to see how everything ends. Written as journal entries, the sections feel so short you keep reading just one more...just one more....just one more....until suddenly the conclusion is upon you. Hale has gotten kudos before now for her wonderful descriptive writing style, particularly for her fabulous Newbery Honor book, Princess Academy (see review). Fans of rewritten fairy tales and fantasy will find much to like here.