…took me about 4 hours to read. So, it’s not an epic, but still. If you’re not familiar with Shannon Hale’s other works, like Goose Girl, then The Book of a Thousand Days will give you a pretty good idea of what they’re like. Hale follows a pretty basic formula, and this book was no different: find a fairy tale that hasn’t been done into the ground, add an amazingly grown up heroine, a prince charming, some eccentric sidekicks and a nasty villain, and voila, there is a story. Just like baking a cake.
In this case, we have Dashti, an impromptu maid to a condemned princess who must accompany her lady to 7 years in a tower, sealed away from the rest of the world. It’s based off the story of Maid Maleen as recorded by the Grimm brothers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maid_Maleen), except instead of the actual princess being the main character, Hale makes it her servant who is the backbone and heroine of the story. Also inserted is the atrocious overlord Khasar, who also has some invested interest in the girls in the tower, and who serves as a typical bloodthirsty, womanizing asshole trying to take over the world.
I don’t mean to belittle this tactic of writing. The fairy tales Hale picks are refreshing, and for a young audience the morals are healthy and strong female characters are certainly in abundance. And I do enjoy her novels enough to pick up the new ones when they come out, simply because I know that they will be interesting tales that I haven’t heard before or seen in a Disney movie.
But of Shannon Hale, I ask, “WHY are you’re characters always so damn perfect?” Dashti’s flaws in this book are not what I would consider “actual” flaws. Yes, having a moment of hatred for the hopeless mope of a princess you serve is morally problematic, but not when you have spent the last 200 pages dutifully following her every order and praying to gods and ancestors in every other sentence.
Lady, it’s time to make your pages a little less 2D.
And I mean that with love.
One last thing, and I’ll be on my miserly way…the fastest possible way to cut the climax out of your book is to have your character writing a diary entry after the fact and telling you in blaring letters that they survived the events that they are about to tell you. It’s already generally implied in fairy tales with pretty girls on the cover.