Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children's Books
IQ "'Was it..' I hesitated. I didn't want to tell him his own feelings, but I thought I understood. 'Was it as though you had a splinter inside, deep in your chest, that had been there so long you'd forgotten to notice the pain, and the song reminded you so you could pluck it out?'" Dashti pg. 169
Dashti is Lady Saren's loyal maid. She is so loyal that when Lady Saren refuses to marry the man her father has chosen for her, Dashti accepts the same punishment as Lady Saren. They are both locked into a tower for seven years, there is only one tiny flap that opens up to the outside world. Lady Saren is in love with another guy, Khan Tegus, and both he and Lord Khasar (the man Lady Saren refused) visit Lady Saren while she's in the tower. Lady Saren is too afraid to talk to Khan Tegus, so she orders Dashti to impersonate her. Pretending to be gentry is a crime punishable by death, but Dashti will be required to keep up the charade in order to keep Lady Saren and herself safe.
I was worried that I would not like Dashti. The book gets off to a slow start and I was uneasy at the thought of having to deal with meek Dashti for the entire book. Gradually, I realized that my uneasiness over Dashti's meek attitude was a good thing. The author really made me get into a character's head, I UNDERSTOOD why Dashti didn't want to cross the gentry, all her life she has had it hammered into her that she is inferior to the gentry because she is a mucker. She takes care of animals and knows only healing songs. Imagine having it hammered into you that you are inferior (oh hey I've talked about that before xD) so I understood Dashti a little better. However I could not abide Lady Saren. It doesn't matter how she redeemed herself, she annoyed me with her weak will and inability to express herself. I'm just not patient though and Lady Saren did not take away from my enjoyment from the story. I only wish the book had picked up faster.
The Eight Realms of Dashti's world are partially modeled after medieval Mongolia. I would not have pieced that together were it not for the author's acknowledgments (although the title 'khan' made me think of Genghis Khan). How cool :) I adore the fairy-tale elements of this book. It's not sickly sweet but it isn't depressingly realistic either. There is a careful balance maintained throughout the duration of the novel. Humor in the novel comes from Dashti's mucker songs, she heals people by singing about something completely different to take the person's mind off their pain. Lord Khasar presents an unexpected twist, his acerbity is most unwelcome and terrifies Lady Saren. The romance between Dashti and her love interest also develops slowly, friends first, very close friends later, in-like and finally, in-love. The two of them are adorable. More than anything, my favorite part of the book was seeing the difference between meekness and timidness. Dashti is quiet but she will not allow herself to be all walked all over, when something REALLY bothers her, she speaks up. She isn't a perfect 'warrior' woman and she is not a know-it-all. Dashti doubts herself constantly but her self-doubt does not affect her ability to follow her heart.
The Book of a Thousand Days features exquisite writing, complicated situations and first-love goodness. Each word is chosen with care and while Dashti acts as though she fumbles to find the right words, she easily finds the most eloquent and storybook ways of expressing herself. Another of my favorite quotes, "[t]he sky no longer seems breathlessly huge, but feels to press down on me. Perhaps I'm just afraid of the uncertainty to come. When I'm moving on a journey, the ending is still unknown and possibly wonderful. But once I arrive, it's hard to keep imagining." (pg. 129) The book is cheerful filled with great characters, slow and steady worldbuilding and an exciting climax. Bonus points for having an all Asian cast and a main character who has a beautiful spirit and is only slightly bothered by her mottled hand (that she feels hinders her beauty, but then again a mucker maid is not supposed to be beautiful). Extra bonus: some of the proceeds from the sale of this book go to Heifer International!
Disclosure: Received from Aurora, thank you so much!
PS Read the original fairy tale Maid Maleen here