Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
Retellings of fairy tales may be quite common, but a retelling of the Maid Maleen fairy tale? Not so common. It’s probably just as well that that fairy tale itself isn’t commonly known, since Hale sticks close to the original in many plot points. Since I definitely was NOT familiar with that tale it allowed me to still be somewhat surprised by certain plot twists.
An age range for this is a bit tough to peg – there are very brutal events, although most take place off stage, and the ones that take place in the book itself aren’t detailed. There are threats of rape, but readers who are unaware of that horror won’t catch the reference, as it’s only hinted at and not stated explicitly. The main character faces starvation, torture, and even death – this is not a book I’d blithely hand over to someone without knowing them and their sensitivities.
And yet, that makes it sound harsher than it really reads, and likely would keep anyone from voluntarily picking it up, which would be a shame. Yes, there are difficult events in it, but the book retains a wonderful sense of hope throughout it. Hale does an amazing job of somehow not making the book feel too dark or heavy despite some of the topics. The setting is a great adaptation to the original tale – I loved the Mongolian customs that are described, and how one of them plays a pivotal role in the overall story (not saying more as I’m skirting a spoiler there). I adored the main character and was sad to come to the end of the book.
There are scattered illustrations throughout the text, and they add to the story’s charm yet also make it feel targeted more towards younger teens or tweens. I know, I just referred to the book’s charm after that earlier paragraph; seems unlikely and yet it does have a great deal of charm.
Finally, the book is told in journal entries, so that was another plus for it as far as I’m concerned. Am I extra swayed in a book’s favor when it’s an epistolary novel? Quite likely. 🙂 [Read more…]