Book of a Thousand Days
Book of a Thousand Days' first U.S. edition cover
|Genre||Young adult, Fantasy|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|LC Class||PZ7.H13824 Boo 2007|
When Dashti, a mucker from the steppes of Titor's Garden, seeks to find a job after her mother died due to illness, she eventually finds one in one of the 8 Realms. It's to become Lady Saren's maid, she enters into a struggle between Saren and her father. The Lord of Titor's Garden has declared that his daughter will marry Lord Khasar of Thoughts of Under, when Saren reveals that she has betrothed herself to the young Khan Tegus of Song for Evela. To tame his daughter, Saren's father shuts her and Dashti, the only maid willing to accompany Saren, in a tower far away from his city. He claims he will only release them after seven years, or if Saren will relent and marry Khasar.
Saren and Dashti are visited by Khan Tegus while they are in the tower. Saren starts to show signs of schizophrenia, and, as a result, demands Dashti to play the part of the lady. Because Tegus cannot see into the tower, Dashti plays Saren's role and forms a friendship with Tegus. He visits them several times. Lord Khasar, from Thoughts of Under, also visits the girls. He is angry, like Saren's father, and goes so far as playing dangerous pranks on the girls. Dashti is given a gift by the Khan Tegus, a cat she names My Lord. When My Lord, the cat, goes missing after a night full of wolf howls, there is an infestation of rats in the basement. The guards, who are supposed to be watching the tower, don't respond to the girls' cries. The girls begin to grow weary in the tower as time passes and food supplies dwindle. Nearly at the end of her strength after many months, Dashti follows the rats to a weakened portion of the basement and breaks through the wall to freedom.
Once out, they travel together to find Khan Tegus at Song of Evela. Throughout all of this, Lady Saren's conditions do not improve and Dashti must sing healing songs to calm and soothe her, just as she did in the tower. They find a yak and Dashti gives this yak to a woman who works at the home of Khan Tegus. Saren and Dashti take up jobs as scrubbers, but Saren won't reveal her true identity to the Khan. It is revealed that Dashti can sing songs of healing, and she is hired to take care of and heal the Khan Tegus.
While the girls were locked in the tower, Lord Khasar destroyed Lady Saren's home and is waging war on Khan Tegus. Now that Dashti and Saren are at Khan Tegus's home, and with Dashti so close to Tegus, Tegus begins to suspect Dashti. At Saren's request, Dashti poses as Lady Saren. She sacrifices herself to Lord Khasar but, through her gift, is able to reveal Lord Khasar's true character. He is actually a skin-changer, a wolf. Lord Khasar's army, upon seeing his true character, turn against him and he is killed. When Dashti returns to the palace, it is revealed that she is a mucker, not Lady Saren.
Through the persuasion and evidence shown by Tegus and Saren, Dashti is saved and marries Khan Tegus.
- The narrator and the writer of the "Book of a Thousand Days", fifteen-year-old Dashti leaves the plains where she was raised to find work in a nearby city after her mother passes away. As a person from the plains, she is looked down on as a "mucker", a low-class citizen, by nobility. However, she accepts the role of becoming the lady's maid of Lady Saren, learning too late that she is expected to serve Saren while she is imprisoned for seven years in a tower. Describing herself as thin, with skinny ankles, worn-out hands, long black hair, and with birth marks, or what she calls "blotches" on her face and hands, Dashti is revealed to be a resilient and resourceful young woman. The strength of her will and spirit allows her and Saren to survive in the tower and to go on living after their escape, and Dashti's knowledge of songs of healing soothe the damaged spirits of those close to her. She is deathly loyal to Lady Saren, seeing it as her duty to her ancestors and the gods she worships.
- Sixteen-year-old Saren is the third child of the ruler of Titor's Garden, who regarded her as a worthless and ugly brat. Her unusually vehement refusal to marry Lord Khasar, claiming that she is betrothed to Khan Tegus, results in her imprisonment in a tower with only one maid for company for the next seven years. Dashti astutely perceives that Saren's lack of self-esteem and nervous disposition are the results of a deep-rooted sickness within Saren's heart and gradually helps her heal. Though she is initially afraid of everything and is easily jealous, she comes to trust Dashti as a true friend.
- The ruler of the Song of Evela, one of the Eight Realms. A suitor of Lady Saren, he bravely visits her in the tower where she is imprisoned, though because of Saren's fright, Dashti impersonates her to convey what she believes as Saren's feelings for the Khan. When his visits abruptly cease and Dashti and Saren escape the tower, the two young women manage to find their way to the Song of Evela, with Dashti hoping to reunite Saren and Tegus. However, Tegus and Dashti gradually fall in love.
- The brutal ruler of the Thoughts of Under, who demanded Saren as a bride. A powerful warlord seeking to conquer the Eight Realms, he possesses a terrifying secret that Saren learned and has fearfully kept hidden.
- A noble lady who becomes engaged to Khan Tegus when he believed that Saren had perished with the destruction of Titor's Garden. A haughty and vicious woman.
Friendship and Love Dashti is a very honest yet humorous character. Throughout the novel she is motivated by her love for her mother to reach out and help others. When she first meets Lady Saren, who lies and weeps on her bed, she does not judge her, but looks for the good qualities in her. Through Dashti's patience and perseverance, she develops a friendship with Saren. At some points, Dashti does not tell Saren certain things, for fear it might further aggravate Saren's fragile mental state. Dashti even risks her life by posing as Saren and taking a stand against Lord Khasar. Dashti's friendship of Saren eventually turns the events at the end of the novel, in which Saren declares that Dashti is her sister. Friendship is also evident in the relationship between Dashti and Khan Tegus. When Dashti, posing as Lady Saren, talks to him at the tower, they joke and laugh. They create a friendship that eventually turns into a romantic love. When things take a bad turn at the end, Khan Tegus finds every way possible to marry Dashti, and after he and Saren convince the chiefs Dashti is innocent, friendship and love win in the end.
Loyalty and Trust Dashti is loyal to Saren, yet she confides and puts all of her true thoughts into her journal, the book that the reader holds. It is in this journal we learn of Dashti's true emotions and thoughts towards the world around her. However honest her thoughts are, she is still loyal to Lady Saren on the outside. By the end of the book, Saren trusts Dashti. Tegus struggles with trusting Dashti after he finds out who she really is. But because of her loyalty to him, he finds his loyalty in her and rescues her.
Time The title itself is an acknowledgment to this theme. Dashti mentions many times that things will turn out right with time, or that Saren will be healed with time. Dashti doesn't seem to mind being locked seven years in a tower until she realizes Saren's true character. Throughout all of this, she exhibits extreme patience. When she risks herself against Lord Khasar at the end, she plays with time in revealing his true character as a wolf. Standing naked before him is almost a way to spite the way he stood naked before Lady Saren and revealed who he really was, thus bring up the past. Tegus also brings up the past with Dashti, reminiscing on how far they've come.
Literary Significance and Reception
The novel has generally received positive reviews. Kirkus review said, "Dashti’s voice is bright and true; Hale captures her sturdy personality, Saren’s mental fragility and Khan Tegus’s romantic warrior as vibrantly as she limns the stark terror of the Mongolian cold and the ugly spirit from which Khasar draws his strength." Publishers Weekly in giving it a star review wrote "Hale (River Secrets ) delivers another winning fantasy, this time inventively fleshing out the obscure Grimm tale, Maid Maleen..." and "Readers will be riveted as Dashti and Saren escape and flee to the Khan's realm where, through a series of deceptions, contrivances and a riotously triumphant climax, the tale spins out to a thoroughly satisfying ending."
Awards and Nominations
Best Speculative Fiction 2007, Whitney Awards
Fantasy and Science Fiction 2007, Cybils Awards
Young Adult Fantasy Novel 2008 Cybils Awards
A Book Sense Pick for Fall 2007
An ALA Best Book for Young Adults 2008
An Oprah’s Book Club Kids Reading List selection
A Junior Library Guild Selection
Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books
A Teenreads.com Best Book
An SLJ Best Book of the Year School Library Journal
A Booklist "Top Ten" Youth Fantasy
- 2007, Bloomsbury USA Children's Books ISBN 1-59990-051-3, Pub date 18 September 2007, Hardback
- "Book of a Thousand Days". www.publishersweekly.com. PWxyz LLC. Retrieved 22 July 2015.
- Book of a Thousand Days on Shannon Hale's official website