Dashti, a mucker maid, follows her lady into imprisonment in a lonely tower. Lady Saren’s father vows to lock her up for seven years after her refusal to marry the powerfuls but vile Lord Khasar. When Lady Saren’s love, Khan Tegis visits the tower, she begs Dashti to woo him in her place. Dashti complies, unwillingly at first, until the kindness and good humor of the gentle prince stir her own heart. Lord Khasar also visits the tower, demanding that Lady Saren emerge and marry him. Dashti must use all her wits and bravery in order to protect her lady and herself from the monster inside the evil lord.
In a dramatic retelling of the familiar Brothers Grimm tale Maid Maleen, author Shannon Hale introduces a humble maid through journal entries kept through the long tower imprisonment. Dashti relates her story in lyrical prose strewn with cultural references and songs reminiscent of an ancient Middle-Eastern or Asian land so realistic it’s easy to forget it’s fiction.
The expert writing and diary format make it feel like a historical account written by a member of some ancient kingdom. Dashti’s goodness and loyalty make her an easy character to admire. Though she never takes up weapons made of steel, her cunning and bravery in the face of powerful enemies place her among the greatest heroes, a worthy role model for young readers. The writing style and setting reminded me of another childhood favorite, Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen and Bahija Lovejoy. I highly recommend both stories.
Polytheistic religion incorporated into the story.
A girl very briefly tells her maid that she witnessed a man brutally murder another man.