Monday, July 13, 2009

The Book of 1000 Days by Shannon Hale

While in England, WH Smith ran a stellar sale where I was able to buy one book, get one 50% off. Of course this encouraged me to take a chance on a British author, and I happily selected The Book of 1000 Days by Shannon Hale. Entranced by the cover alone, I hoped that this book would deliver a solid fairy tale, where the hero (or heroine, in this case) takes all. I was not disappointed.

Taken from a Grimm's fairy tale, and set in a fantastical Mongolia, Hale has lovingly named all of her characters with fragments of Mongolian words for who they represent. The heroine Dashti, for example, means good luck, and the main squeeze Tegus, means perfect. It starts when Dashti, and the princess she has just agreed to serve, are thrown into a tower for seven years, all because the princess refuses to marry a brute of a prince, and prefers another. Dashti, happy with more food than she could ever want, keeps her spirits up, but when rats start devouring the food, and howling is heard from outside the tower, things can only get dicey. A journey ensues, and Dashti, forced to impersonate the princess, gets into more muck than a mucker maid ever has before, as she begins to fall for Khan Tegus, the princess's soon-to-be-betrothed.

The writing is charming and Dashti instantly likeable for her lower-class naivete and her desire to be a good person. She constantly tears herself between her duty to the princess, her duty to the ancient ones, and her duty to her own heart. Convinced that something is wrong with the princess, Dashti sings to her regularly, songs of healing, though the heroine is never quite sure what she needs to heal. A lovely treat is that the princess also grows as a person due to Dashti's never wavering loyalty and friendship, and the trouble that the two girls get into.

This is only one of several fairy tales retold by Hale, and was pure fairy tale charm. After all, sometimes you need a book where a hero isn't born a hero, but claws her way through to make the world a better place, no matter what that world may be.

Visit Shannon Hale's website here.

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