The book of a thousand days by Shannon Hale
2009. ISBN 9780747597810.
(Ages 10+) Highly recommended. Award winning author Shannon Hale has written another memorable heart wrenching tale of heroism and courage. Based on the Grimm Brothers' story, Maid Maleen, Hale has set her tale in Asia. Lady Saren refuses to marry Lord Khasar, the man her father has chosen for her because not only is she is terrified of him, but she is in love with Khan Tegus. Her father is furious and locks her in a tower with her maid, Dashti, until she comes to her senses. But even the tower doesn't keep them safe from the evil Khasar, who arrival brings great danger, while Khan Tegus's appearance brings hope.
Told from the point of view of Dashti, in the form of a diary, the reader is swept into the lives of Saren and Dashti as they struggle to survive in the tower. Even though they have been left enough food and firewood to survive for seven years, the tower has been completely walled up so they live in darkness except for the meagre light that comes from the fire and candles. Rats attack their food and the guards outside desert them. Dashti's diary descriptions are compelling and the reader will never be able to think of being shut in a tower without shuddering.
Hale doesn't follow the usual rules for a fairy story. Her heroine is not a beautiful princess, but the lady's maid, a Mucker girl who has been raised on the steppes and who has a disfiguring birthmark on her face. However it is Dashti's indomitable spirit that keeps them from falling into deep depression and it is her perseverance that eventually gets them out of the tower. She is the brave one, who records their story and who is prepared to die for the love of her life. Saren is weak and whiny and would never have survived without Dashti.
This is an exciting read, with a wonderful heroine, adventure, courage, plot twists, romance and heartbreak. Rich in vivid descriptions, some charming illustrations and a very exciting and satisfying conclusion, this book is a keeper for fantasy and fairy tale readers. It would also be a powerful read aloud.