- When Dashti, a maid, and Lady Saren, her mistress, are shut in a tower for seven years because of Saren’s refusal to marry a man she despises, the two prepare for a very long and dark imprisonment.
As food runs low and the days go from broiling hot to freezing cold, it is all Dashti can do to keep them fed and comfortable. With the arrival outside the tower of Saren’s two suitors—one welcome, the other decidedly less so—the girls are confronted with both hope and great danger, and Dashti must make the desperate choices of a girl whose life is worth more than she knows.
With Shannon Hale’s lyrical language, this little-known classic fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm is reimagined and reset in a land inspired by the Asian steppes; it is a completely unique retelling filled with adventure and romance, drama and disguise. Quoted from Goodreads
I have read several of Shannon Hale's young adult novels, but for some reason, this one was always at the bottom of my list. I think I hesitated in reading it because it was based upon a fairy-tale that I did not recognize, and therefore other of Hale's books, such as Goose Girl, enticed me more with it's familiarity.
Having read this novel, however, I am sad I did not pick it up sooner. I think that Dashti is perhaps the noblest of all of Shannon Hale's heroines. A unique blend of toughness and humor, ignorance and wisdom, frustration and and humility, make her someone that any reader would cheer for. She is no wilting flower of a girl, but someone that any reader would want to be like.
Hale is a master of incorporating unique cultures and settings into her stories. Having the story take place in a land inspired by the Asian steppes certainly gave the book an exotic feel. The land, much like Dashti, is filled with seemingly conflicting elements. It is both harsh and beautiful, oppressive and liberating, and its people a dynamic mix of just and merciful, cruel and kind, fearful and brave.
Perhaps the most compelling thing this story has to offer is the relationships between Dashti and the other main characters. As a lowly "mucker" maid, she faces unique obstacles in dealing with noble Lady Saren, Kahn Tegus, and my favorite character, the villain Lord Khasar. He is a deliciously evil villain, and I love that he is. A heroine is only as great as the villain, and part of why I loved Dashti so much is because she had such an incredible villain to overcome.
This book is 4-stars for how these dissonant elements are woven together to make a harmonic masterpiece and a fun, romantic read.