I listened to this particular novel on audiobook (thank you public library!), and I loved it. I have read a few of Hale’s novels, and I knew that she went mostly for fairy-tale retellings, which are sort of my guilty pleasure. Though I never feel that guilty for them.
Book of a Thousand Days is narrated by Dashti, a young girl who has lost her entire family. In order to survive, she goes to the nearest city and finds herself pledged to the childish Lady Saren. Before any time has passed in her work, Dashti and Lady Saren are being locked in a tower for seven years because Lady Saren refuses to marry a wicked leader named Khasar. Dashti must try to keep them well, enclosed in the dark and their food being eaten by rats. Perhaps most trying is Saren’s inability to cope at all even when her real beloved Tegus comes to see them. Dashti must pretend to be Saren, and soon the girls are caught up in the lies of who they really are.
Being a Hale fairy tale, the novel has a happy ending, but I honestly had no idea how things were going to work out. The initial trapped in the tower portion of the book was slightly grating, perhaps mostly because of Saren’s behavior. Immature and whining constantly, I felt so bad for Dashti who was trapped with her and must obey her. Written in journal form, Dashti’s calm voice of reason tells the readers everything of importance in their lives.
Though Lady Saren is the gentry (and the usual pick for narrator of a novel like this), Dashti holds our interest and exudes confidence in herself. Perhaps not always, but enough that the reader will undoubtedly root for her, especially when she takes charge of Saren and helps the two girls to escape their prison. Saren herself improves with the novel, and by the end you find it almost time to forgive her for her past behaviors. Saren certainly helps to keep Dashti out of trouble, and her loyalty sways readers back to her side.
Book of a Thousand Days is set somewhere in the East. It felt more Arabic to me, though Hale says the inspiration was partially born out of Mongolian tribes’ traditions. The audiobook music certainly gave it more of a desert feel.
This was the first audiobook that I had listened to with more than one voice. Different actors assumed the roles of the characters, almost as if it was a movie where you just could not see the screen. It was captivating and I thought brought the book to life. There are very few audiobooks with multiple narrators (The Help does it to great effect), and I had grown used to those who could do many voices like Jim Dale does for Harry Potter. I’m not sure I want this trend to take over, but I felt it certainly worked here, especially since the book itself is geared towards younger readers.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book, and especially the audiobook. It was a fun story and a great listen. Most likely geared for the younger of the YA set, it still held this (sort-of) adult’s attention.
Audiobook Rating: 9/10 (I’ll start to rate the audiobook narration as separate from the book itself)