There is beauty in simplicity, and sometimes wisdom. Imagine all the chaos and despair of your life swirling around you, but your thoughts are still clear and your peace of mind is undisturbed by the jumble of darkness threatening to snap you in two.
I can’t review Book of a Thousand Days in the traditional sense. To do so would be an injustice to Dashti, the mucker girl who was locked in a lightless tower for three years with a helpless, hapless, sometimes mad, and often childish princess. Rather, I will tell you about Dashti, whose “thought book” documents her and Lady Saran’s captivity in the tower, their escape, and follows them as they build a new life for themselves. What I love about this book is that Dashti’s very soul is apparent in every word.
Dashti’s loyalty is apparent. On the day they meet, Dashti promises Lady Saran that she will never leave her side. Little does Dashti know that the lady has been sentenced to seven years in a sealed tower for disobeying her father’s wishes. Although any normal person would immediately refuse to join Lady Saran in her prison, Dashti feels honor-bound to the lady.
She also has sympathy and patience for Lady Saran that is mirrored by no other character in the book. Long after I would have smothered Lady Saran with a pillow for being a brat and a coward, Dashti remains patient and kind to her lady. Day after day she tends to Lady Saran, and sings mucker healing songs in an attempt to cure the lady of her confusing mental instability.
Dashti’s believability and genuine voice make her plight only that much more compelling. Dashti’s despair becomes traumatic for the reader as the years of her self-imposed sentence drag on. Her journal entries get shorter and shorter, her convictions and will to live waning. But like any mucker, she is a survivor, born and bred to never give in. When all others would have faded and died, she picks herself up by the boot straps, and the Lady Saran too, and decides they will live. Her strength and thoughtful nature not only saves Lady Saran and herself, but also saves their new home from the invading forces of Khan Kashar, an evil, soulless man who is likened to Genghis Khan.
I find it especially fitting that Hale decided to change the traditional setting of the story from Germany (the book is based on Grimm’s fairy tale “The Maid Melene”) to the Mongolian steppes. The nuances of Asian culture adds a sincerity to Dashti’s servitude and selfless nature that might otherwise be hackneyed.
What I find interesting about Hale’s novels, is that the ones I’ve read all share a common thread, the idea of language. In the Books of Bayern series, certain characters have the ability to speak to elements such as wind or fire; animal-speaking and people-speaking is also possible. In Book of a Thousand Days, Dashti essentially has body-speaking. Her songs find and heal peoples’ bodily pain or heartaches.
My favorite passage in the novel is one that illustrates Dashti’s simple peace of mind. She has been discovered impersonating nobility by Lady Vachir. Lady Vachir orders her guards to slice off Dashti’s feet so that she cannot run away:
The sword rose above me. I looked up at it, silver against blue sky, and I was a fool enough to think Isn’t that pretty? Silver on blue. I held my breath while I waited for the blade to drop. I didn’t look down, I didn’t want to see blood, see my leg end at my ankle. I just kept staring up and thinking silver on blue, silver on blue.
Quite obviously, I highly recommend this book to everyone and have tagged it with ‘Favorite Books’ because it definitely has earned a place in my heart.