Thursday, February 3, 2011
The Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
There are two parts to my love for this book. The first is the book itself, as written by Shannon Hale. The story of Dashti, a lady's maid, and her lady Saren, locked up in a tower because Seran won't marry who has been chosen for her, an evil lord of a neighboring realm. They break out of the tower eventually, but a find a world that is completely changed, destroyed by Khasar, the man Saren refused. Only one realm is still left standing and free from Khasar and that's where the two girls head for. They live, they grow, they change and they discover and they become mature women with difficult choices to make. They survive.
Shannon Hale's language is captivating, as is the story itself. But what I loved most was the character of Dashti - brave, smart, scarred, overlooked, incredible Dashti, who is one of my favorite heroines ever. This great site has lots of extra information about The Book of a Thousand Days and explains that the story is based on an old Grimm fairy tale called "Maid Maleen" - but the original completely ignores the side of the maid, her feelings, her predicament. What Shannon Hale did with Dashti to rectify that is amazing. Aside from her character and thought process in general, I love the backdrop of the serving culture, the division between nobility and muckers. Dashti understands that she was created to serve her Lady but questions it too, at some point. She is an intelligent character and I am certainly not doing her justice here so you'll just have to go meet her yourself.
Another thing I loved about the characters was the development of Dashti and Saren. The way they both evolve, the way all their experiences shape them, Hale describes is so, so well. The women they become really show all they've been through, everything they'be learned. So amazing.
And I loved the role of Gods in the story. That the eight realms of the world were named after Gods, that the Gods influenced so much that went on. They didn't make appearances like in the Greek myths, but they were really a strong presence.
Apparently the setting was inspired by Mongolia, how cool is that??
Which bring me to the second part of my love of this book. I can't imagine that a better audio recording could ever be created. The Book of a Thousand Days was narrated by Chelsey Nixon as Dashti and she was absolutely amazing. She had the perfect voice for this part and her acting was superb. Plus, the whole thing is a Full Cast Audio recording, meaning that different people play different parts. Like in a theatre play. It adds SO much to the experience, the cast really made the book come alive for me. Special mention has to go to Chelsey Nixon's singing - Dashti knows the healing songs and uses them to help those around her. So whenever the text goes: "I sang the song for sadness, which goes :" Chelsey Nixon actually sang the excerpt. Incredible. I'd add more 'incredibles', I want to, but that would be just plain silly. :-)
There's so much more I want to say about this wonderful story, but I'll stop now and let you go discover it for yourself. The only other Shannon Hale book I've read was The Goose Girl and I thought it was only ok. The Book of a Thousand Days makes me want to read everything she's ever written.
Challenges: Seconds Challenge, What's in a Name 4