Temple of a Thousand Faces by John Shors which released on February 5 marks a return to historical fiction for John and I can best describe this book as no less than an epic masterpiece. I have read many of John’s books but this is my absolute favorite so far and I don’t imagine I will forget this story for some time. This novel is engaging and amazing on so many levels and so beautifully written. What adds to the story is that John actually traveled to Cambodia and visited the temple of Angkor Wat and researched his story as much as was possible. However the story takes place in the year 1177 and not a lot of information is left so what he couldn’t find he imagined and that is where the magic of this story comes alive.
Prince Jayavar and his chief wife Ajadevi are of the Khmer people. They are people of love and peace and when their homeland is attacked by the Cham people they find themselves running for their lives and manage to escape into the jungle. The Cham King is a ruthless and cruel man who thinks nothing of wiping out entire families in order to feed his power and greed. When the prince’s family is destroyed Jayavar becomes King and along with his wife’s counsel he begins to build an army in order to exact his revenge and take back his homeland for his people.
As mean as the Cham King Indravarman is all of his soldiers are not; in particular Asal who is a young and powerful warrior. Indravarman values him not only for his expertise as a warrior but also because he is intelligent but ultimately Indravarman is loyal to no one especially anyone who might threaten his position as King. As a reward Indravarman gives Voisanne, one of the women that had been captured by the Chams in the upheaval, to Asal. Of course Voisanne expects the worst and is surprised that Asal has no intention of hurting her. In fact as time goes on he seems quite taken with her. Can love bloom where there is so much pain and hatred?
Then we have a family who captured my heart. Boran and Soriya are parents to Vibol and Prak. Both brothers are very close with Vibol being stubborn and reckless and Prak, because he is almost blind, more settled and reliant on his other senses including his sharp mind. They are family of fishermen who know nothing of the toils of war but when Vibol is witness to the brutal murder of a girl he knew by the Chams his desire for revenge becomes overwhelming. In order to keep their family together they join Jayavar’s army and learn to fight together but above all their love for each other shines through.
This novel is about the majestic Angkor Wat but it is also very much about love and the spirituality of the people of that time. Their beliefs in dreams and signs is fascinating as is their belief that as people leave this world they come back to the same people they loved in this life. I love how the men of this time (other than the Cham people of course) valued their women and even had a temple devoted solely to them. As I read I became so invested in many of these characters and with the way this story is portrayed I felt as though I was there. I could see the beauty of Angkor Wat and I could feel the passion and love between Jayavar and Ajadevi as well as Asal and Voissanne. At the same time I could feel the heat of battle and would find my heart racing as swords and axes were flying. It is the mark of a good author when they can take you so far back in time and have you feel as though you were reliving the lives of these people.
Temple of a Thousand Faces receives the highest recommendation from me. For those of you who have the novel I urge you to make time to read it as you won’t regret it. It’s one of those books that you want to rush through because it’s so good and yet you want to put aside for a while because you don’t want the story to end. It is a novel of love betrayals, loyalty, and survival and I truly loved this book so much so that it will top my list of favorites for 2013!
You can learn more about John’s work on his website and you can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter as well. You can pick up your own copy of Temple of a Thousand Faces at Amazon, Amazon Canaada, B&N, and IndieBound. As well I have a giveaway on right now with 3 signed copies up for grabs so be sure to head over and check it out!
Source: Review copy provided by the author. No compensation was received and all opinions are my own.