Review of The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

51qfwi-xszl-_sx329_bo1204203200_Rating: 3.5/5

Release Date: April 12th, 2016

Length: 497 pages

Source: borrowed from library

Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

I must write this account, and when I have finished, I will burn it.

Buried deep within the archives of a convent in medieval France is an untold story of love, loss, and wonder and the two girls at the heart of it all. 
Dolssa is an upper-crust city girl with a secret lover and an uncanny gift. Branded a heretic, she’s on the run from the friar who condemned her mother to death by fire, and wants Dolssa executed, too.
Botille is a matchmaker and a tavern-keeper, struggling to keep herself and her sisters on the right side of the law in their seaside town of Bajas.
When their lives collide by a dark riverside, Botille rescues a dying Dolssa and conceals her in the tavern, where an unlikely friendship blooms. Aided by her sisters and Symo, her surly but loyal neighbor, Botille nurses Dolssa back to health and hides her from her pursuers.  But all of Botille’s tricks, tales, and cleverness can’t protect them forever, and when the full wrath of the Church bears down upon Bajas, Dolssa’s passion and Botille’s good intentions could destroy the entire village. 
From the author of the award-winning All the Truth That’s in Me comes a spellbinding thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final page and make you wonder if miracles really are possible.

So one of the unofficial goals I set for myself recently is to try and read more historical fiction. I absolutely love the genre, but find myself rarely reading it. The Passion of Dolssa sounded like a very interesting story and I’ve never read anything set in this time period (at least that I can remember) so I really wanted to read it. It was a pretty good read, although was not perfect by any means.

The biggest problem I had with it was that it could be really slow at times. The beginning starts off okay: we see Dolssa being named as a heretic and scheduled for execution. But then it gets boring and stays that way for some 200 pages. At this point the story is mostly setting itself up and bringing Dolssa and Botille together and while that obviously is a very important part to this book, it seemed to take a very long time. It wasn’t until the last 200 pages or so that I felt that there was a decent amount of action going on. The rest of the book is pretty mellow and focuses more on the characters which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but not something I personally really enjoy.

Another thing that kind of bothered me was that the different POVs and the writing in general is a bit confusing at first. It took me some time to be able to separate the different POVs. There were some chapters that were “witness testimony” that were especially confusing because it’s essentially the dialogue from one person. And despite the fact that the person is obviously answering questions and taking part in a conversation, we only see what one person is saying. With that said, after awhile I got used to the different POVs and the witness testimony chapters. One last complaint I had about the writing is that I feel like the chapters could have been a bit more uniform in length. There were some chapters that weren’t even a full page and others that went on for 30+ pages. Most chapters seemed to be around 10-15 pages or so but I found myself getting burned out in the longer ones because I wasn’t expecting them or used to them in this particular book.

Passion of Dolssa 2

But despite all this, there were a lot of things that I did really enjoy. Berry included a lot of Old Provencal words and some Latin words as well. I really loved seeing a bit of these old languages thrown in. There are also glossaries at the back of the book to tell you what these words mean in case you can’t figure it out. You’ll probably be able to figure out the meaning of a decent amount of these words if you know any Spanish or French – I had taken French in high school and my freshman year of college and was able to understand a fair amount. One small complaint is that I wish there was some way we could be notified of the glossaries because I didn’t realize they were there at first and I was a bit confused by some sentences because they contained words whose meanings I didn’t know.

To me, the characters are what make the story. They are incredibly interesting and dynamic. The people of Bajas, including Botille and her sisters, were really fun to read about. I really loved the kind of magical elements between Botille and her sisters – they could sometimes read each other’s minds and Botille’s sister, Sazia, could predict people’s futures. I found them really interesting. But even outside of Botille’s family, the villagers were all quite distinct characters and, like I said, fun to read about. I liked seeing not only their characters, but their setting. Because they’re living in Europe in the 1200s, religion plays a huge role in their lives and even the characters who don’t consider themselves religious are still impacted by the overall society’s reliance on Christianity. As I mentioned before, I hadn’t read anything in this time period before and so that was a lot of fun for me.

Lastly, I really appreciated that the ending was realistic. I don’t want to give too much away, but the ending is not one of those where everyone lives happily ever after and you’re left thinking “there’s no way this story would end like this.”

This book is pretty dense and can be slow and/or a bit confusing at first, but I’m still glad I read this. However, if you’re looking for a quick or really action-packed book, look somewhere else. I think in order to enjoy this book you need to be a pretty big fan of historical fiction, otherwise you might get bored too quickly.

3.5 stars

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