Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Book Thoughts - Temple of a Thousand Faces by John Shors

Temple of a Thousand Faces by John Shors
published 2/13
512 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

When his land is taken by force, Prince Jayavar of the Khmer people narrowly escapes death at the hands of the conquering Cham king, Indravarman. Exiled from their homeland, he and his mystical wife Ajadevi set up a secret camp in the jungle with the intention of amassing an army bold enough to reclaim their kingdom and free their people. Meanwhile, Indravarman rules with an iron fist, pitting even his most trusted men against each other and quashing any hint of rebellion.

Moving from a poor fisherman's family whose sons find the courage to take up arms against their oppressors, to a beautiful bride who becomes a prize of war, to an ambitious warrior whose allegiance is torn--Temple of a Thousand Faces is an unforgettable saga of love, betrayal, and survival at any cost.

My thoughts -

One of the reasons I love to read historical fiction is the opportunity to lose myself in a place and time that I know nothing about. Case in point - I just spent 30 minutes browsing Wikipedia learning about Angkor Wat, the Khmers and the Chams, and the history of Cambodia. This novel takes place in a country and time I knew virtually nothing about, and now its history is part of my life.

Shors' cast of characters is not well known - the historical facts are somewhat sparse, so he is free to create beliefs and motivations for his characters that would be harder to do if he were writing about, say, Elizabeth I. While it would be interesting to see a bit more nuance - his good guys are very good, and his bad guys solely bad - I thought the story he weaves together felt true and organic.

Shors' novel is very much a collection of love stories, and the one I felt most connected to was the family of Boran and Soriya and their two sons. I quickly grew to care for this family that chooses not only to survive, but to resist their invaders, and I have to admit I got a bit emotional as their story drew to a close.

"He reached for her, and suddenly it was as if the years had gone backward. He was simply a boy who needed the comfort of his mother, of the person who had brought him into the world and who understood the beauty of turtles and memories and togetherness." (p. 362)

I enjoyed Shors' writing style very much. It was never flowery or overly-descriptive, but he always allowed me to see the amazing sights that would be before my eyes. There were a couple of times I felt like perhaps he gave his characters a bit too much insight - everyone was very wise, and on a few occasions it seemed to impede the flow of the novel just a bit. I wasn't surprised by any of the events of the novel, but it didn't feel predictable, and I found the reading experience enjoyable.

If you are a historical fiction fan, I definitely recommend this book. I will certainly be looking for more by this author - he has won himself a fan here!

Finished - 3/18/13
Source - review copy from the publisher- thank you!
MPAA rating - PG-13 for adult situations and violence
My rating - 8/10


Zibilee said...

Oh, Elizabeth, the blog looks beautiful! I don't know if I've seen it like this before, but I had to mention it!

I am very excited about this book. It's one that I want to read rather soon, as I never have studied up on Cambodia, and really would appreciate all Shors' stroytelling expertise.

Excellent review today!

Literary Feline said...

I keep meaning to read something by John Shors. I made me mom read one of his books a couple of years ago and she loved it. This one sounds really good--it's not a part of history I know much about. Like you, I love it when a historical fiction book brings out the researcher in me, tempting me to learn more.