In a brutal and archaic punishment a beautiful young Lady is locked away in a rat-infested tower for 7 years. Her father imprisons her after refusing a favoured Lord's hand in marriage. The only one brave, or perhaps foolish, enough to accompany her to this prison is her faithful maid Dashti.
Dashti and Lady Saren live in a mystical land overseen by distant pagan gods who rule through the privileged gentry. Stripped of her family, Dashti has never known luxury and has faced a daily battle to stay alive. In contrast, Saren is a pampered princess to whom the squalor of the tower is a brutal shock.
Despite their differences the girls slowly build a routine and begin to fashion a home for themselves. At times their readiness to accept their situation felt slightly offbeat. However, it soon becomes clear that for both girls the prison develops elements of a sanctuary from the outer world as Dashti begins to suspect that Saren's extreme fear of her rejected suitor is far from natural.
Dashti is a mucker, a peasant class known for singing songs of healing. Her talent and empathy for healing the pain of others renders her blind to her own feelings and she soon becomes unwillingly entangled in a web of deceit and mistaken identities. Think Twelfth night meets Emma with a touch of Brothers Grimm.
Dashti's stubborn respect for the gentry verges on irritating and her patience with the pathetic Lady Saren is beyond understanding. This does make for an interesting take on the corruptability of religious belief but it did feel overdone at times.
That being said, Shannon Hale's engaging and humorous style kept me turning the pages and the book definitely lightens up in the second half. It's a sweet story with slightly gothic moments and a few twists and turns. Would recommend if you've got a weakness for fantasy teen romance