The Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

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The Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A diary style allows the reader right into the heart of an old fairytale, in this story of mistaken identities, beautiful princesses, cruel khans and love, loss and heroism. Angela Carter for the little ones. Super.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: March 2008
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN: 978-0747589235

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When the beautiful Lady Saren refuses to marry Lord Khasar, her father has her bricked up into a tower, like Rapunzel. Dashti, as Lady Saren's maid, is bricked up with her. They are to remain there for seven years. They have a store of food, but the spoiled Saren eats it too quickly - she thinks they will perish one way or the other anyway. They'll either starve in the tower, or be killed by the wicked Lord Khasar. And when the secret visits from Saren's lover, Khan Tegus, suddenly cease, Saren goes through the meagre stores even more quickly. Eventually, Dashti realises she must break them out or Saren's gruesome fears will come true sooner rather than later.

Once free, things appear even more hopeless. Lord Khasar is now ruler of seven of the eight realms. The landscape is scorched and there are few survivors. Only Khan Tegus' country, Song for Evela, remains free. So Dashti sets out to take her mistress through hostile territory in order to reunite her with her erstwhile lover...

I didn't think I was going to enjoy The Book of a Thousand Days particularly. I like fairy tales an' all, but I wasn't sure a single fairy tale spun out for three hundred pages was going to float my boat at all. Mea maxima culpa. I was wrong. Dashti's story comes as a diary - her book of thoughts - and this device brings in the reader. I felt closer to Dashti than I ever remember feeling to Little Red Riding Hood or Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty. All the wonderful fairy tale structures and tropes are there - rags to riches, heroes and villains, just comeuppances, mistaken identities. Somehow though, they seem more immediate and vivid when told through the eyes of this stalwart, courageous, loyal young girl.

And Dashti is a wonderful heroine. Not only is she brave and determined, she's also endearingly naive and humble. As a child of the steppes, a mucker, she possesses a talent for healing by song, but it never occurs to her to be vain about it or even proud of it; she simply uses it to serve. Unwaveringly loyal and unselfish, she looks only to serve her mistress and Khan Tegus, even if it means losing her life. By the end, you're absolutely and desperately hoping she gets her just reward for all this heroism. And, of course, this being a fairy tale, we're not disappointed. Things end well for Dashti.

I loved this delicious retelling of a little-known fairy tale. I'm all for the old stories and I'm all for the old stories made new. This is a charming example. Recommended for all fans of magical romance, aged eight to eighty-eight (but probably twelve really).

My thanks to the nice people at Bloomsbury for sending the book.

Older children might also enjoy the fairy tale structures in Tim Lott's Fearless although it is perhaps a little too bleak for the younger ones.

Booklists.jpg The Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale is in the Top Ten Retellings of Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales.

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Buy The Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale at


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