Lady’s maid Dashti may look meek, but her inner fortitude is far more than that of her fragile Lady Saren. When Lady Saren is condemned to seven years in a locked tower by her father for not marrying evil Lord Khaser, Dashti is the one who rations the food, sings the songs of healing to ease her lady’s anxiety, and chases the rats from their precious stores of food. When Lady Saren’s true love, Lord Tegus, comes calling through the tower’s only opening (a chamber pot dump hole), it is also Dashti who must speak to him, under her shy lady’s orders. After a few such intimate, whispered visits, Dashti is horrified to discover that she is in love with her lady’s man. She writes it all down in her Book of a Thousand Days; her forbidden thoughts of Tegus, her despair that her lady will ever come out of her depression, her fear that they will not survive the tower imprisonment. But survive they do, and before Dashti knows it, they are on to another adventure where she will need to call on the strength of her ancestors to keep them both alive. Finally, they come to the point where Dashti’s precious Book will either save their skins, or condemn Dashti to death. Will Dashti, a lowly mucker girl, be able to claim both her life and the love of a lord? This rarely told Grimm fairy tale, re-imagined by Hale to have taken place on the Mongolian steppes, is a sweeping romantic epic that will steal your heart even as it makes it race with excitement. It’s one of the best fractured fairy tales I’ve ever read, and the fact that Hale sets it in a real time and place makes it even more rich. Follow this one up with Donna Jo Napoli’s historically imagined Pied Piper story, Breath.
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale