Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale.
Bloomsbury: NY, 2007.

Based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale "Maid Maleen," the story is transformed and reset in a world similar to medieval Mongolia. It is a realistic portrayal of Lady Saren's imprisonment (intended for 7 years) in an abandoned watch tower for disobedience to her father. Shut in with minimal necessities, her maid Dashti struggles to keep them both alive and sane. It is Dashti who communicates with visitors-one terrifying and one consoling. She is commanded to assume her mistress's identity. Though it is a hanging offense, she sees no other solution.

There are some cultural specifics that relate to Mongolia but not enough to historically place it. The harsh laws could have applied to any medieval area, since at the time women and daughters were considered property and were punished as their Lords chose. Communities were self-sufficient and lived by their own laws. Dashti's inner turmoil would, of course, not have been considered important, but it is stimulating to read and contemplate the intricacies of her situation.

Overwhelmingly the mood is of fear and sadness, and the young women survive mostly through Dashti's strengths. It is a roller coaster of emotion with some hope and anticipation thrown in. There is a certain amount of fairy tale to it, but overall it is realistic. Once into the story, I didn't want to put it down. I have heard Shannon Hale fans were disappointed by the book. As this is my first book of hers to read, I was impressed by her style and compelling story.

related-girls, loyalty, service, imprisonment, disguise, shape shifting, healing with touch, seeing and understanding, love, Asian steppes, strong female protagonist/character

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