A to Z Book Review: Book of a Thousand Days

⭐⭐⭐⭐

My letter “B” pick for this year’s A to Z reading challenge was BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS by Shannon Hale.

This lovely, lyrical tale weaves the story of Dashti, a dirt-poor Mucker girl who makes her way to the city looking for work only to find the palace in an uproar. Lady Saren, the youngest child of the resident lord is in the middle of a fight with her father over a pending betrothal, and when Dashti presents herself as a lady’s maid (after all the other servants have mysteriously fled), Lady Saren demands her vow of service. Dashti, being a devout servant of the ancestors, immediately swears to serve her and never leave her, as Lady Saren is Gentry and therefore blessed by the ancestors.

Dashti learns to regret that vow as Saren’s father bricks them both up in a tower, vowing to keep them there for seven years unless Saren agrees to marry Lord Khasar, a vicious warlord and head of a neighboring kingdom bent on conquering the world. Saren claims to be secretly betrothed to Khan Tegus of the kingdom Song for Evela.

Dashti soon realizes her lady is in a fragile state of mind, and begins keeping a journal of their days in captivity. Khan Tegus makes a series secret visits, and a clearly enamored Dashti speaks and jokes with him through the small opening in their door pretending to be Saren, who is too afraid and broken to speak. Tegus can’t stay but swears he will return and get them out. Unfortunately, their next visitor is the horrible Lord Khasar who slaughters their guards and razes the kingdom to the ground in retaliation as Saren still refuses to wed him.

Tegus never does return and the girls remain trapped for the next two and a half years, with rats eating through their supplies and Saren’s mental health deteriorating to frightening levels. Dashti finally finds a way to break them out, and they make their way to the kingdom of Khan Tegus for refuge.

The plot from there has so many twists and turns, it would take several more paragraphs – and heavy spoilers – to detail it all. Suffice it to say, it held my interest, but there were a few instances of plot convenience that stuck out to me, and Dashti’s blind insistence to serve her lady and the sacred ancestors gets to be a bit much at times – even though it ends up saving the day at the end. Overall, it was a lovely tale. The worldbuilding was rich, the magic captivating, and the main characters fully fleshed out. Four stars.

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