Monday, July 5, 2010

When Plot Does Not a Romance Make

I spend all to much time reading children's books lately, which means that I must spend an inordinate amount of time reviewing children's books.... so I request your indulgence once again (and since I don't have any more on my immediate reading list, probably for the last time for a while) while I write up Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale.  You may recall this as suggested by abg on this very blog quite some time ago... it has taken me a while to get to it, but I just finished it and here is your reward for patiently waiting :)

A. had recommended the book, if I recall, as somewhat of a romance, which it most assuredly is not.   But I forgive you darling, because I know we radically differ in what we find romantic.  I mean, it's not as if the story had no potential for romance - lady's maid and her forbidden love for the ruler of the realm, but 1) not my thing - my years of Georgette Heyer have made an unapologetic class snob of me and 2) just not written that way.  It *is* a children's book after all.

And I didn't find it to be a particularly rewarding children's book... Dianna Wynne Jones has the advantages of humor and an alluring backdrop of a rather fairy tale land, along with characters who mingle with la creme de la creme of that land.  Well this book is a fantasy, but it's based on the steppes of central Asia! of all places during what seems to be medieval times... and while Dashti may mingle with la creme de la creme, it's... somehow not quite the same when she's the maid of a rather pathetic gentlewoman.  Plus I have absolutely no patience/sympathy for what seemed to me to be the main message of the book, which is that ideas of predestined class are false and an unfair burden on the lower classes.  I mean, I'm happy I live in a democratic society at all, but please stop destroying my fantasy life as a countess ;)

And the book is written to glory in the simple things in life, to build an appreciation of the mucker's small demands from life and their happiness despite/because of this... and given this vs. Howl dying his hair a different color every two weeks because he's just that vain... well you *know* which one I choose :)

So basically this book was not for me.  Except... about half way through, the story starts to get... compelling.  I care what happens, I root for Dashti, and I'm not utterly disgusted by/skeptical of her relationship with Tegus.  And that's chiefly due to Dashti's strength, both as a character and of character.  If there's one thing I like in books, it's a character that, no matter what happens, is untouched by despair... and while Dashti herself is often despairing, we know she'll be okay, because she is that strong.  She's quite talented and always resourceful.  And it's a pleasure to see her coming up roses through everything. 

Verdict: I wouldn't normally choose to read this book, as it's *completely* out of my genre, but it wasn't too painful  - 2.5/5

Food: something I don't normally eat, which I might have expected to be really good, but wasn't that good in the end, but also wasn't so bad... I'm going to go with mushrooms - not mushrooms and onions, which I *love*, but maybe sauted portobello mushrooms - they often have an aftertaste, but if they're cooked right, they can be pretty decent - not a treat though, unless I've never eaten them cooked really right ;)

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