Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

When Lady Saren refuses to marry a man she fears, she and her maid, Dashti, are locked in a tower with just a tiny flap open to the outside world. As food runs low and the weather changes from broiling hot to unbearably cold, it is all Dashti can do to make them comfortable in their dark prison.

Not long after their confinement begins, Saren’s suitors arrive–one welcome, the other less so-and she orders Dashti to speak to them. Impersonating Lady Saren is a crime punishable by death, but Dashti will have to play the role many times if she is to save them both from the tower and the dangers outside. As she takes control of their desperate situation, Dashti begins to understand her own astonishing talents and believe that even a low-born maid can find true love.

Book of a Thousand Days is an acclaimed romantic coming-of-age tale that is impossible to put down. Shannon Hale’s lyrical writing, unforgettable characters and intriguing setting give this book the timeless quality that any classic must have.

Read below for my review.

Oh, my. Where to start? I absolutely adored this book. I enjoyed reading Hale’s Princess Academy series when I was younger, and I was a bit concerned that this novel might be geared more towards a middle-grade reading level. The thing about Hale’s writing, though, is that it’s both timeless and ageless. I could pick this book up in twenty years and find some new insight. I’ve listed some qualities that made me love the book as my review.

Characters

My favorite thing about this novel was how it was character-driven. The plot doesn’t suffer because of it–there is plenty of action and interesting dialogue, but the character development was beautifully done and stood out. Hale knows how to capture complex emotions in simple turns of phrases–it truly shocked me that I could feel exactly what the characters were feeling with such clarity. We only read from the viewpoint of Dashti, the main character, but somehow all of the other characters received equal development. And DASHTI. I love her with all my heart. She is everything I aspire to be–she’s incredibly loyal and pure but learns not to let people walk all over her. She is sweet and kind, but sarcastic and witty. She is incredibly good and does things for the sake of making others happy. There have been books with characters with similar qualities of kindness, but they have always been portrayed as weak and spineless. Dashti, however, is completely empowered and independent. She is who she is, unapologetically. She is loyal and generous not out of fear, but strength. She has some total badass moments, too.  The other characters are equally lovable. I was frustrated with Saren at first, until I realized how accurately Hale was able to depict her anxiety, depression, and PTSD. So, although she seemed to be the fragile maiden, I thought she was incredibly brave and her development continued until the very last page. I found myself being extremely fond of her, despite my earlier frustration, because it was just so realistic.

Romance

The romance was sweet as well. No insta-love here. I felt the spark between the characters and their love was born out of both laughter and pain. Not only that, but there was a platonic bond between the characters that was incredibly realistic. There were moments of hatred and resentment, but also love and redemption. I love how Hale stays true to reality in this regard, because no relationship is perfect but it made them stronger.

World-building

The world itself is based in Mongolian culture, which I thought was super cool. Most Asian settings are depicted in China or Japan, so I’m glad we got to see something unique. While the setting was fairly simple, I thought the touch of politics added to the depth of the novel. It isn’t super nitty-gritty, though, which I was glad about. The world was there to get the story started, but it was the characters who really made it what it was.

I chose to give this 4.5 stars instead of 5 because full stars are reserved for books that completely blow me away in every aspect. This book almost did that, except that the beginning was frustrating for me and I had to force myself over a few plotholes, all of which occured in Part 1 (example: the girls were in the tower for about two years. How did they not get sick from lack of Vitamin D?). Part 1 was not much of the book though, and the rest of it was excellent, thus my 4.5 stars.

I would highly, highly recommend this novel. Has anyone read it? Do you agree with me, or did I overhype Hale’s writing? Let me know in the comments.

Happy Reading!

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