Title: The Passion of Dolssa
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Published: April 12, 2016
Format: Kindle Book
Awards: Printz Honor Book (2017)
Goodreads Synopsis: 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.
I had heard lots of hype about this book both on Goodreads and my local library. The premise of a YA book set in the 1200’s during the Inquisitions sounded so original compared to what’s popular in YA right now. So I bought it on my Kindle and began a journey through time. I was heartbroken, shocked and enthralled in this wonderful book. Here’s 3 reasons why people need to read this book.
- Themes: The main themes of this book are friendship, survival, family and the thoughts on faith and miracles. In our day where there’s a lot of negativity and harshness, this book shows a time where people were executed for simply thinking differently. People couldn’t really defend themselves from the zealots that actually erased entire cities for having different beliefs. But Dolssa is a character that doesn’t succumb to the fear and anger towards those who wish to harm her. She, along with Botille and her sisters, want to help others and each other. Dolssa prays for people who despises her. She helps to heal those who are near death or of broken spirit. Botille sees this and starts to wonder about miracles. The village is affected by Dolssa’s selflessness as well and this book shows the strength of charity towards others. Not only that, but you also see the bond between Botille and her sisters strengthen as they go through unforeseen trials. Despite the terror of being hunted and judged, these girls fight to support one another till the very end. These themes of friendship, charity, service and also belief are strong traits we need to keep close.
- Authenticity: Julie Berry has crafted a story that’s a mirror into the 1200’s in Spain. With the additional reading at the end, you see the care and precision she went to create this story. History like this must be told as it is without putting modern ideas into hit. In this novel, you witness: poverty, death, persecution, clashing ideas, sickness and death. This time period is terrifying to live through and you feel that in the passages you get from various characters. I do feel grateful for the time I live in now and respect those who braved that time period. This has been the most authentic and brutally real historical fiction I’ve ever read, next to titles like Between Shades of Gray and The Book Thief. I learned so much about this time in history and that’s what most important: knowledge is power and creates understanding.
- Character Arc: The main person that truly changes in this book is Botille. She’s the primary story teller in this book. When you first meet her, she and her three sisters run a tavern in her village. They do fortune telling, matchmaking and make ale for their customers. They had to steal to survive before making their livelihood. But after saving Dolssa from near death and forming a friendship with her, Botille starts to see more to life than just matchmaking. She sees the charity and meekness of Dolssa and questions her own beliefs. Her character change is a true change and a great joy to read and experience. You do see a shift in Dolssa as well, but I’ll leave to you to read about. Even other characters start to change as they witness the events in this book and it’s all true and never once heavy handed.
- Writing: I still can’t believe how amazingly Julie Berry crafted this story. Her writing is so quotable and beautiful. Here’s a few of my favorite passages from this book:
“Not only could inquisitors seize, convict, and burn, they could slice through long ties of loyalty with the double-edged blade of fear.” (pg. 292)
“All I had ever done was seek gifts from my beloved. It was time to offer them in return.” (pg. 207)
“To love as my beloved does, I must love all those whom he loves. In heaven, there are neither nobles nor peasants. Only children of God.” (206)
“Almighty God, entering our lives by pure happenstance. I, who peddled in ale, and wine, and brides-how could-why would-such holiness cross paths with me?” (pg. 197)
“That which you tend, you come to adore with the kind of love that bypasses sense and reason.” (pg. 116)
“Home was each other. Not walls, but adventure of the search to find them.” (pg. 6)
“When searching out a history, shifting through a thousand facts and ten thousand lives, one often uncovers pieces that do not fit. The prudent choice is to cast those details aside, like chaff into the fire. The story must be understandable. The moral should be clear.” (pg. 2)
5. Try Something New: Finally, I ask: why not try something new? Finding a book that is unlike anything that’s popular can not only be pallet cleanser, but you could find a new favorite to you. I read this because I was curious. Now, I love it for it’s powerful themes, research and an overall beautiful story of the good in the world despite the terror around it. If you’re needing something to help distract you from the bad in the world, try this. If you want to another historical fiction to read, try this. Whatever the reason may be, read this book if you want an emotional connection and a story to experience as blind as possible. It always pays off in one way or another. This is another favorite this year for me and I hope that you’ll read it.
Have you read this book? If so, what did you like about it the most? Have you been curious about this book?