Review by Booklist Review
*Starred Review* The author of the Newbery Honor Book Princess Academy (2005) offers another captivating fantasy filled with romance, magic, and strong female characters. The story, based on a little-known fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, takes place in an imagined ancient Central Asia. Orphaned Dashti is a hardworking, pragmatic girl, who grew up in the open, windswept steppes. She finds work in the city with a young noblewoman, Lady Saren. Then Lady Saren refuses an advantageous marriage, and as punishment, she and Dashti are sentenced to seven years in a sealed tower. A tiny window is the tower's only connection to the outside world, and it's there that Saren's two suitors, the terrifying Khasar and the handsome Tegus, come calling. Written in diary form in Dashti's voice, the gripping tale follows the two young women through their imprisonment and their escape into a grim world of warring societies. Readers will quickly embrace Dashti, an invincible storybook heroine with a healer's touch, who accomplishes battlefield heroics while nurturing a powerful, secret love for a lord. Fans of Gail Carson Levin's Fairest (2006) will embrace this similar mix of exotic, fully realized setting; thrilling, enchanted adventure; and heart-melting romance.--Engberg, Gillian Copyright 2007 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Hale (River Secrets) delivers another winning fantasy, this time inventively fleshing out the obscure Grimm tale, Maid Maleen, through the expressive and earthy voice of Dashti, maid to Lady Saren. A plucky and resourceful orphan, Dashti comes from a nomad tribe in a place resembling the Asian Steppes, and is brought to the Lady's house in the midst of a crisis. Lady Saren, having refused to marry the powerful but loathsome Lord her father has chosen, faces seven years' imprisonment in an unlit tower. Initially, Dashti believes her worth is tied to her ability to care for her "tower-addled" lady until she can join Khan Tegus, to whom she is secretly betrothed. When the gentle Tegus comes to the tower, Dashti must step in for her traumatized lady, speaking to him as Saren through the one tiny metal door. Hale exploits the diary form to convey Dashti's perspective; despite her self-effacing declaration that "I draw this from memory so it won't be right," the entries reflect her genuinely spirited inner life. The tension between her unstinting loyalty and patience and burgeoning realization of her own strength and feelings for Tegus feels especially authentic. Readers will be riveted as Dashti and Saren escape and flee to the Khan's realm where, through a series of deceptions, contrivances and a riotously triumphant climax, the tale spins out to a thoroughly satisfying ending. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review
Gr 5-9-When Dashti the muckermaid from the steppes region throws in her lot with Lady Saren, little does she expect her loyalty to be tested by being bricked up in a tower with the Lady for seven years as punishment for Saren's refusal to marry the evil Lord Khasar, rather than her own preference, the handsome and gentle Khan Tagis. A series of first-person journal entries chronicle the differences between Dashti's resourceful, optimistic, and pragmatic personality and that of Lady Saren--a 16-year-old girl/woman who is prone to depression, fearful of the world, and unable to function independently. The full cast production of the fantasy by Shannon Hale (Bloomsbury, 2007) captures the lyricism of the author's language, although the voice of Dashti seems extremely young and naive. The inclusion of many snippets of "healing songs" detracts from, rather than adds to, the story. Fans of Hale's previous books will enjoy this latest offering. Despite the somewhat predictable plot, the story is one of inspiration and hope.-Cindy Lombardo, Cleveland Public Library, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review
(Middle School) No sooner does Dashti -- a lowly ""mucker,"" or nomadic herder -- sign on as lady's maid to Lady Saren than the latter's father has them both walled up in a tower for Lady Saren's refusal to marry the abusive Lord Khasar. Despite the horror of their fate, Dashti's upbeat diary entries are lively with details of their survival in the dark, including a visit through the wall from Khan Tegus, a rival ruler to whom Lady Saren is secretly betrothed. Then contact with the outside world is inexplicably cut off, and with food supplies running low, Dashti must rely on her mucker skills and courage to find a way out or perish. What happens after the two girls emerge, and how Dashti eventually confronts and defeats Lord Khasar, forms the surprising second half of the book. Hale brings her invented kingdom to life with descriptions of the customs of both mucker and gentry, snippets of which Smith depicts in Dashti's occasional pen-and-ink sketches. With such a self-possessed and resourceful heroine and such a rousingly successful trickster caper at the climax, this newest tale takes proud place among Hale's growing shelf-full of folk-fantasy adventures whose protagonists give ""spunk"" a good name. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
A rousing, even spellbinding tale--with outlines in the Grimms' Maid Maleen--is set in medieval Mongolia and told in journal form. Dashti is maid and scribe to Lady Saren, whose father has bricked both of them in a tower for Saren's crime of refusing to be married to vicious lord Khasar. Dashti knows healing songs from the steppes, and she needs them, as Saren is what we would now call schizophrenic. The girls' captivity is eased at first by visits of the Khan Tegus, but the Khasar visits, too, and threatens to burn the tower with them inside. The rats that have eaten their food supply also tunnel a way out, so they escape--and find Saren's father's city destroyed. They make their way to Khan Tegus, where both girls serve hidden in his kitchen. Dashti's healing songs are needed in a war between Khasar and Tegus, and who she is, and who they are, come forth in a strongly presented climax. Dashti's voice is bright and true; Hale captures her sturdy personality, Saren's mental fragility and Khan Tegus's romantic warrior as vibrantly as she limns the stark terror of the Mongolian cold and the ugly spirit from which Khasar draws his strength. (Fantasy. 12-15) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.