In 13th-century Provenza, the Catholic church is all-powerful. Those who oppose its will or believe differently will be violently silenced. But 18-year-old Dolssa’s passionate Love for her Beloved Jhesus is too strong to silence. She watches in horror as her mother is burned as a heretic, but Dolssa miraculously escapes moments before her own execution.
In the seaside town of Bajas, 17-year-old Botille runs a tavern with her two sisters. Her sisters make ale and tell fortunes and she does matchmaking to earn extra money. Botille discovers the starving Dolssa lying by the side of a road and immediately decides to help and to hide her. The two girls — one an educated gentlewoman, the other a street-smart daughter of a prostitute — form a strong bond. But Dolssa is about to bring destruction to herself and the entire village, for two men are still looking for her.
This book is complicated, but not in a bad way. It shifts back and forth between the perspectives of many different characters and bounces forward and backward in time. I had to really pay attention to understand how the story fits together. It also weaves together three totally different lives — that of the priest Lucien, the mystic Dolssa and the peasant Botille. My favorite perspective is that of Botille. I love her quick wit and determination to succeed. She is fiercely protective of those she loves. I also love the language and customs of Botille’s village, which are described vividly in this book. It’s a place and time I knew little about but have come to love — which makes it even more heart-wrenching to read about how the close-minded zeal of the churchmen destroyed so many innocent lives in this time period. At certain points, this book was difficult to read, but it’s a story worth knowing that beautifully conveys the power — and danger — of love.
Rated: Moderate. Probably mild if not in the young adult category. No profanity. No sex, although prostitution is alluded to several times. There’s some violence associated with the punishment of heretics: burning, branding, flogging and more. It’s not very graphic but still intense to read.