Author: Kim Fielding
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Shobana Appavu
Rating: 4.75 of 5 Stars
During his youth, orphaned thief Faris was flogged at the pillar in the town square and left to die. But a kind old man saved him, gave him a home, and taught him a profession. Now Faris is the herbalist for the town of Zidar, taking care of the injured and ill. He remains lonely, haunted by his past, and insecure about how his community views him. One night, despite his reluctance, he saves a dying slave from the pillar.
A former soldier, Boro has spent the last decade as a brutalized slave. Herbs and ointment can heal his physical wounds, but both men carry scars that run deep. Bound by the constraints of law and social class in 15th century Bosnia, Faris and Boro must overcome powerful enemies to protect the fragile happiness they’ve found.
Fairytales don’t always need spells, witchcraft or potions to be magical. Sometimes all it takes is the simple magic of human sympathy.
“The Pillar” is set in a somewhat AU 15th century Bosnia; the author talks about the setting and the inspiration for the story in a blog post here
It was the setting, time and place, that first drew me to read this story; I’ve always found the Balkans a fascinating part of the world, with its unique mix of cultures and religions, especially during the time of the Ottoman Empire. Which was beautifully done in this story – I was transported there, saw, heard, smelt and tasted what the characters did without ever feeling hit over the head with research. I love it when that happens. I didn’t care at all if the historical facts – the judicial system, the punishment customs, the pillory in and of itself – were textbook-correct or not; I just sank into the story and let myself be carried away.
And it was a story well worth sinking into. A simple enough yet complex plot with a colorful background, populated with multidimensional characters and owerflowing with emotion – angst, hurt, joy, love, you name it. Hurt-comfort in the narrower and wider sense of the word; for once, it didn’t only concern the main characters, but a whole community was involve in the healing and mending.
Faris and Boro’s relationship develops haltingly at first. For one, they’re both men, and while homosexuality exists in their culture, however covertly, the mere concept of a loving relationship between two men is utterly foreign to them. I loved watching them slowly getting closer and opening up to each other, their courage and the way they learned to trust. I rooted for them and feared for them even though I knew – sort of – that all would be well in the end. (If I had any niggles with this story, I found the eventual solution, though much yearned for, a bit too convenient and predictable.) Still, I was glued to the pages, holding my breath as I waited for the redeeming moment.
Speaking of characters – I think much of the magic of this book lay in the portrayal of the personages, not only Faris and Boro (who were both rich, multi-faceted and just so likable I couldn’t help but taking both of them into my heart immediately) but also the secondary cast – the villagers; the mufti; especially Mirsada, the kafana-owner and her son Ibro. Even the villain, though suitably mean and devious, wasn’t a mere monster but a human being, dealing with his own pain.
This delicious Arabian-Nights-style story reminded me a bit of a Nasreddin-Hodja-fable; it had the same pleasantly wrapped wisdom: a heartstring-pulling love story and at the same time, a hopeful allegory to the “what goes around, comes around” maxim.
An engrossing, emotional, intense read with lovingly drawn characters and a hopeful, uplifting message.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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