Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale.
I have heard wonderful things about this book for months, so the minute I got it I moved it to the top of my reading pile. (This is why I never seem to get to those down at the bottom.) It did not disappoint!
Dashti and her mistress, Lady Saren, are locked in a tower together for seven years because Lady Saren refuses to wed a man she hates. Dashti is a mucker girl, a girl used to a nomadic life on the steppes. Luckily, she knows how to write and creates a diary of their time in the tower. Lady Saren slowly grows more and more strange as the time passes, and Dashti tries to cure her with her healing songs but it doesn’t help. Cold, rats and spoiling food fill their days except for the ones where the outside world intrudes. It is when Lady Saren’s suitor comes to visit the tower that Dashti truly comes to life. She plays the part of her mistress with him and they form a friendly bond. But then he leaves and doesn’t return despite his promises. In fact, after a visit from the suitor that Lady Saren hates, no one at all comes to their tower not even the guards posted there by Saren’s father.
Hale has managed to make a gripping story of imprisonment, primarily due to the enchanting voice of Dashti, a down-to-earth girl who finds herself as a lady’s maid despite the poverty she came from. Dashti is a heroine with a clear voice, level head and plenty of bravery and resourcefulness. She is nicely contrasted against the weakness and wealth of Lady Saren, who could have been a very cardboard character but also provides a welcome depth and interesting story.
It is the writing here that really shines. It is evocative, universal and yet stays friendly and easy to read.
Highly recommended for teen readers who enjoyed Hale’s previous books. I would also recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy featuring strong female characters, such as those who read Tamora Pierce.