A Newbery Honor Medal winner, Shannon Hale has already established herself as an eloquent and absorbing storyteller, and this latest novel further consolidates this reputation. The story is related in diary form by Dashti, a ‘mucker’, the lowliest form of commoner in a feudal society that readers may identify as medieval Mongolia. In her endnote Hale confirms this and also acknowledges that her story is loosely based on the Grimm Brothers’ tale ‘Maid Maleen’.
Not that Hale spends a lot of time on description. Dashti’s voice is immediate and direct, occasionally reflecting on her life in the summer pastures before she went to the city to find work, but mainly describing unfolding events. Now maid to Lady Saren, they are both about to be shut in a tower for seven years by Saren’s father for defying his order that she marry Lord Khasar, a brutal chieftain, instead of Khan Tegus with whom she is in love.
Their life in the tower and eventual escape, following which they make their way to the land controlled by Khan Tegus, are the focus of the narrative. They obtain work in the kitchens of Tegus’s house, and Dashti schemes to bring about the marriage of Saren and the khan. But then she and Tegus fall in love and she has to battle with her feelings and her loyalty to her mistress. Dashti’s gift of healing by singing operates throughout the book, and eventually brings about a satisfactory resolution. The Book of a Thousand Days is a romantic adventure story with an interesting setting; it is aimed mainly at girl readers, many of whom will undoubtedly enjoy it.