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Book of a Thousand Days

Reading Discussion Guides

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

About the book

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.

About the Author

Shannon Hale was a storyteller from birth. At age 10, she began to write books, mostly fantasy stories where she was the heroine. Hale continued to write secretly for years while pursuing acting in television, stage, and improv comedy. After detours studying in Mexico, the UK, and a year and a half as an unpaid missionary in Paraguay, Shannon earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Utah. She was finally forced out of the writers’ closet when she received her Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Montana.

The Goose Girl, her critically acclaimed first book, is an ALA Teens’ Top Ten and Josette Frank Award winner. Enna Burning, River Secrets, and Forest Born are companion books to Goose Girl, continuing the Bayern books series. Princess Academy is a Newbery Honor Book and a New York Times best seller. She and her husband Dean co-wrote the graphic novel Rapunzel’s Revenge, which was selected by Today’s Al Roker for Al’s Book Club for Kids.

For more information about the author, watch our video interview with Shannon Hale.

Discussion Questions

  • Did your feelings about Lady Saren change over the course of the book? Did you like her more or less after they escaped the tower? After they started working in the kitchen? When Saren orders Dashti to stay with her? What do you think brought about the changes in Lady Saren over the course of the book?
  • At the beginning of the book, Dashti describes herself simply as “a mucker and a lady’s maid,” but by the end of the story she has become so much more. When Lady Saren orders her to stay, Dashti muses to herself, “Strangely, her words held no sway over me. Maybe it’s wrong, but I don’t think I have to do what she says just because I’m a mucker and she’s an honored lady” (p. 274). What do you think has brought about these changes in her? What words would you use to describe Dashti?
  • The color blue appears several times in the story: we read about the Eternal Blue Sky and the blue deel Dashti gave to Tegus when she was in the tower, and when Lady Vachir is about to have Dashti’s foot cut off for lying, Dashti thinks to herself repeatedly, “Silver on blue, silver on blue” (p. 278). Can you think of other examples in the book where the color blue appears? Why do you think the color blue appears so many times in this story and what do you think it represents?
  • Dashti treasures My Lord, the cat that Tegus gave to her in the tower, even though he thought he was giving it to Lady Saren. When the cat disappears, Dashti is very upset. Why do you think the cat is so important to Dashti? What do you think the cat symbolizes?
  • How did you feel when Dashti sang to My Lord to get him to be loyal to Lady Saren instead?
  • How does the way Dashti thinks of and interacts with gentry change over the course of the story? What do you think brings about this change?
  • The mucker songs have been passed down to Dashti from her mother. What are some objects or traditions in your family that have been passed down from one generation to another?
  • Dashti tries to bring about the marriage of Lady Saren to Lord Tegus, even though she obviously loves Tegus herself; do you think this makes her brave and loyal or foolish and too meek? Why?
Book of a Thousand Days

Book of a Thousand Days

Shannon Hale
Age Level:
Middle Grade
Fiction, Romance