I’ve been reading a lot of Shannon Hale lately, and a lot of fairy tale retellings, so this was a great book to pick up, as a combination of the two. I thought it would be an original story, rather than a retelling, but it turns out this is a retelling of ‘Maid Maleen’, a relatively unknown story by the Brothers Grimm. I’d never heard of it before, so similar to ‘Goose Girl’ I had no idea what to expect. The tower on the cover made me think of Rapunzel, but that is only half the story.
The story follows Dashti, a maid to the Lady Saren, the youngest daughter of the ruler of her kingdom. Dashti and Saren are locked up in a tower for seven years because Saren refuses to be forced into marriage. The book focuses on their survival in the tower and what happens after. But, from the title of ‘a thousand days’, you can guess they’re not in the tower for seven years, otherwise it would be ‘The Book of Two Thousand, Five Hundred and Fifty-five Days’, which isn’t as eye catching!
Hale had created a whole tribe of people, with rules and rituals and talents that Dashti conformed to. One of her main talents was being able to heal people’s pain with song. It was a really interesting concept, and the book is told in a diary format, so reading about Dashti’s experiences and back story was extremely intimate. I love that type of story telling, no matter how dull some of her entries could be – when things happened, things happened.
Dashti was such an interesting character. She was very aware of her place in society, which meant sacrificing things she loved, and having to do things she didn’t want to do for the sake of others. But, that’s what drove the plot forward. Dashti did what she had to do, no complaints, which meant talking to the prince in the guise of Saren. And falling in love with the prince, naturally.
Saren was an absolute jerk sometimes and I grew to hate her along with Dashti (thankfully, she redeems herself by the end, but she’s hard to put up with!)
Tegal was a cute prince. He seemed to really care about Dashti, both when she was being Saren and when she was herself. I liked how he dealt with the whole swapped identity crisis with relative ease. He knew when his heart stood, and that was great to read. How everything worked out in the end was expertly woven throughout the story, and all the characters deserved their happily ever after.
This book fit the genre perfectly. There was a handsome prince, an evil villain with a dark secret, princess and the pauper-style role reversal and, my favourite, the Cinderella Syndrome, from rags to riches. If you like the genre, this is definitely worth a read. The world feels like a classic fantasy and the politics too. Perhaps I liked it more than other retellings because I wasn’t familiar with the story, but again, like ‘Goose Girl’, I’ll have to read the original to see just how original the retelling is!
Overall, I’m giving this book 3 stars. I enjoyed it, but it was fairly average. Some of Dashti’s diary entries felt a bit long winded, and not a lot actually happened until the final 50 pages, where the action reached its climax. Saren’s selfish personality detracted from the story and although the healer’s singing was quite unique, the whole situation got quite old after so many uses. However, this is definitely a story for all fairy tale lovers out there!