Desert Isle Keeper
Book of a Thousand Days
When I was a young girl I read every fairy tale I could get my hands on. The Brothers Grimm. Disney. From Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves to Rapunzel , I devoured them all. Country of origin did not matter – just that the tale be of prince and princesses, clever pig boys, sheep herders or maids, brave folk and magic. I followed the obsession up the ladder with books like The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander and Mary Stewart’s fabulous books about Merlin. One problem. A lot of fantasy novels just didn’t have the romance, the HEA hallmark that I was looking for.
Then Luna publishing read my mind and began publishing The Five Hundred Kingdoms by Mercedes Lackey, a slightly more adult version of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty with lots of fun twists added in. At last, love and magic. Recently coming to the sad realization that Lackey writes much slower than I read, I went to Amazon to satisfy my need for more fable style offerings. I struck gold my first time out.
Seven years of guaranteed food! Young Dashti, an impoverished lady’s maid, feels “like a jewel in a treasure box” as she and her young mistress, Saren, are locked into a tower to cure Saren’s disobedient heart. It may be a prison but it is a prison full of food, and Dashti, a peasant who has gone hungry before, appreciates that fine point. And just how did Saren disobey to deserve banishment to a tower for years? She has refused to wed Lord Khasar, the man her father has chosen for her, and Dashti is to sing the songs of healing to Saren as the two share their imprisonment. It is hoped that Dashti’s songs will work their magic on young Saren’s heart and soul, healing her of whatever has prevented her from rebelling against, rather than rejoicing in, her good fortune.
This is not Rapunzel’s tower, built high with a window to dangle her hair from. This is a dark tower, with little air and only a small hinged portal to throw waste from. Right away, as Dashti records everything in her book of thoughts, you can see the difference of reaction between her and Saren. Dashti is thrilled that the door is there and they won’t be poisoned by the fumes from their own wastes, Saren weeps at her lack of windows and doors. Saren is completely immobilized by their misfortune even as Dashti does all the work.
Dashti is right in thinking the small hinged portal brings blessings – through it they hear from Khan Tegue, who wishes to romance the Lady Saren and pull her from her tower to live with him in the land Song for Evela. A precious cat comes through who chases away the mice that plague the girls’ food supply. Laughter, patches of sun, the comforting – and sometimes cruel – voices of the guards all come through this small gateway into the real world.
But as the tower goes from bitter cold in winter to deadly hot in summer, evil things come through the portal as well. Kashar, the rejected suitor, is a man of unbelievable evil who haunts the girls – at one point very nearly killing them by throwing coals through the portal. And finally comes the night when all the world around them falls into silence and it seems as though only they and their tower remain in all the large universe.
The tale of how Dashti and Saren survive their tower imprisonment and the subsequent events is told as a series of diary entries in Dashti’s “book of thoughts”. It’s a story of the magic of music and simple pleasures, courage and cowardice, betrayal and loyalty, friendship and sisterhood, and the power of a good mother. What these two girls learn to survive is amazing and their reward is exactly what it should be. While not a romance, there is a wonderful, tender love story in it.
Dashti is a true fairy tale heroine, no matter what misfortunes are dealt her, she keeps her heart full of faith and her mouth filled with smiles and laughter. She provides enough positive energy to keep both herself and Saren going long after the two should have laid down and given up. And the changes her generosity, joy, and example of strength bring about in Saren are a delight to watch.
Although written for a young audience this is a tale that will appeal to any lover of fables regardless of their age. The wonderful HEA, the powerful message of hanging on through tough times so we get to the good, and the reminder that it is in the simple things we should delight makes this a story not to be missed.