Summary: Dashti, maid to Lady Saren, are shut in a tower for seven years because of Saren's refusal to marry a brutal khan her father has chosen for her. Saren has secretly pledged herself to the kind khan Tegus. For two years Dashti and Saren must endure the brutal summers and winters in the tower. Then, just when it appears that the food is running out, Dashti finds a way to escape. But when they escape, things get even worse. Dashti quickly learns that Lady' Saren's kingdom has been destroyed and all her family killed. She and the traumatized Saren must wander until they procure work as pot scrubbers in a nearby kingdom - khan Tegus' kingdom. Just as Dashti is thinking things will become easier for her and her lady, they soon learn that the kingdom is under threat from the same brutal khan, and worse, Tegus is about to marry another.
Assessment: Hale is just a wonderful storyteller! Her books are exciting and expressive. Here, she takes an obscure Grimm fairytale (Maid Maleen) and imagined it on the central Asian steppes. Not only is it fascinating to read about the culture and religious beliefs of the time, but you'll be riveted to the fleshed-out and well paced story. What's more, then end is so satisfying you'll want to cheer for Lady Saren who moves from being a terrified mouse to a lady who learns her worth, and especially for Dashti who, while holding completely true to her values, earns her worth.