Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
Ever since I was able to read (when I was about four years old, I believe), I always found something admirable about authors. Perhaps it was just so magical the way they picked out words, stuck them here and there, sewed them together, and, voilà! had their stories collected in nicely-bound books. It was as if they were a sort of literary witches and wizards. But now, they also strike me as chefs; some give you a tasty but calorie-packed hamburger with deep-fried French fries that fill you up but make you want something more (your everyday fluff fiction—which I’ve read none of), others cook up a plate filled with a perfect piece of filet mignon along a delectable side dish of vegetables (beautiful classics, e.g. Pride and Prejudice), and a few serve way a Thanksgiving dinner-type meal with too much to take in but are very good otherwise, like a Thanksgiving dinner (War and Peace, A Tale of Two Cities—not that I’ve actually read or finished either). If this was so—if those cheesy YA lit authors flipped burgers at McDonald’s and Jane Austen was the Julia Child of this world—then Shannon Hale would most likely be a sous-chef of the latter. Or perhaps I’ve just been watching a tad bit too much Food Network and cooking-related shows.
Everyone gets grounded by their parents for misbehaving once in awhile; sometimes a ten-year-old can’t watch his or her favorite TV show for a week, or a teen is forbidden from calling their friends every night for a month. What would you do if you had the option to stay with a friend who was to be grounded for seven years in a tower, and if you didn’t step up to stay with her, no one would? This is exactly the question that Dashti, a young mucker living in medieval Mongolian times, faces when given the chance to become the maidservant of Lady Saren, who is given this sentence for refusing to marry a man she has feared ever since she was a young girl. If Dashti said no, this story would be nonexistent; but she said yes, and thus, an adventure began. I really can’t say more than that, or I’ll give it away, but if you read the “recipe” above, that is exactly what this three hundred-odd paged book contains: an intriguing plot, marvelous lyrical writing, characters you feel like you’ve known all your life, and fantastic adventure fantasy with the right amount of romance that will keep female readers young and old swooning (here’s a secret: I totally LOVED the romance and swooned for days on end 😀 ).
I’ll be honest. I love fairy tales, especially Brothers Grimm ones. But never in my life had I heard of “Maid Maleen”, not until I heard about this novel. So after reading the synopsis of it on Wikipedia, you’d think Hale’s version of it would be exactly the same, just written and lengthened in typical Hale flair. In reality, it’s almost as if the author combined “Maid Maleen” with a trillion other classics: Mansfield Park, Persuasion, Cyrano de Bergerac, and Jane Eyre to name a few; in addition, there is a scene towards the end that is easily comparable in artistry and intelligence to the famous pivotal trial in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Even if you don’t know me very well, you would—and should—be aware of my secret and unbearable obsession with this book, which I recommend to even the most reluctant readers. But allow me to put it this way: if you hate plots that are absolutely stunning, if you hate fantasy with a classic feel to it, if you hate heroines who have a little naïve goody two-shoes side to them, then you won’t like this book. But really, who doesn’t want at least one of those things?
Pros: Pretty much everything and anything about it, but see below for the one thing I didn’t like.
Cons: As much as I rave about this book, I may honestly say that there was one part near the ending that turned the story into complete YA (which is a little shocking, being that this is a Hale novel) and almost adult; it was a somewhat edgy scene (I don’t know if that’s the right word), and it totally came as a surprise for me. I wasn’t fond of it, and I think it could have been done without and changed.
Red Flags: As stated in the “cons” section, there is a tad bit
of weird stuff that those desensitized to edgy stuff will totally ignore and
those not desensitized (like me) won’t.
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Original Release Date: September 30, 2007
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