Sunday, March 10, 2013
Historical Fiction: Temple of a Thousand Faces by John Shors
Date: February 5, 2013
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Read: for review (disclaimer: I received my copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)
Reading time: five days
From GoodReads: When his land is taken by force, Prince Jayavar of the Khmer people narrowly escapes death at the hands of the conquering Cham king. 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, Cham King Indravarman rules with an iron fist, pitting even his most trusted men against each other and squashing 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 review: Mostly, I loved the setting and varied cast of characters in Temple of a Thousand Faces. Pre-modern Asian history in general is rather neglected in historical fiction, and it was nice to find a novel, particularly one that is so well-written and researched, with a 12th-century empire at its focus. I also enjoyed how there are several sets of main characters, allowing the story to be told from points of view that include peasants, soldiers, royalty, Khmers, Chams, young adults, parents, prisoners, conquerors, and rebels.
Overall, I found the characters and stories well-developed. I had only a few issues with Voisanne and Asal's romance (because when a woman is given as a slave to a conqueror, there's either harsh treatment and hate or fair treatment and love, right?) and a repetitiveness in dialogue and thoughts towards the end. Though the plot moved at a decent pace, by about page 400 I was ready for things to get wrapped up, just because 500 pages can get long for a novel. But I definitely found the characters' stories to be interesting, enjoyable to read, and informative on the lifeways and events of this period in the Khmer Empire's history.