Pros: Fantastic relationships
Cons: Long-term dread is not my favorite fiction feeling
Rating: 4 out of 5
Ari is a witch who watches over one of the Old Places. Unfortunately the townspeople don’t seem to trust or like her, and there’s an Inquisition spreading across the land, leaving behind many dead witches. Meanwhile, the roads that the Fae travel to and from the human world are disappearing. The Fae think very little of mortals, but they’re going to have to learn how to deal with them if they want to figure out what’s going on. As Ari gets swept up into the machinations of witch-hunters and Fae, her life gets stranger and stranger… and she’s placed in mortal danger.
The Pillars of the World (book one of Anne Bishop’s Tir Alainn Trilogy) is a tense read and a great exploration of both human and Fae personalities and relationships. Ari is swept up by the passionate Lord of Fire, but passion seems to be all he can give her. As for Neall, a neighbor who loves her, Ari is only just starting to realize that they could be more than friends. This sort of love triangle tends to be predictable in most books. I’m chafing a little because I’d love to gush over the ways in which this book’s triangle differs, but I don’t want to give too much away. I’ll just say that I loved how it worked out, and loved the details that made the whole of each relationship into something greater than its parts.
In fact, watching Ari’s interactions with the Fae became my favorite part of the book. Fae are most decidedly not like humans. Their whole worldview makes it pretty much impossible for most of them to understand the depth of human emotions or the reasons why humans do what they do. (Which of course makes those Fae who do understand that much more interesting.) Morag, also known as “The Gatherer” because it’s her duty to send the spirits of the dead to their resting places, is my favorite of the Fae. Perhaps because she interacts so much with human ghosts, she seems to have the closest understanding of what it means to be human.
Adolfo is one scary head inquisitor. He does horrific things to witches in order to obtain their ‘confessions’, and then of course he kills them. There turns out to be more to him than that, which only makes him all the more frightening. (Again, trying to avoid spoilers.) My only problem is that before things truly kick up with the Fae plots, Adolfo’s implacable steady pace toward Ari’s little place in the world left me feeling that dread for a little longer than felt comfortable. (That’s a highly reader-dependent thing, though.) It also contributed to a somewhat slow starting pace. The tension later on in the book made up for that in spades, though.
All in all, I adored the relationships in The Pillars of the World, I shivered at the dark plot threads, and I found the relationships complex and satisfying. I can’t wait to start on book two.