Temple of a Thousand Faces

John Shors, Author
John Shors. NAL, $16 trade paper (544p) ISBN 978-0-451-23917-4
Open Ebook - 544 pages - 978-1-101-59866-5
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"The river was red. The red of both birth and death." Thus begins the prophecy of Ajadevi, visionary and queen to Jayavar, in Shors's thousand year-old dive into the Indochinese past, one unfamiliar to most Westerners. The Khmer people, under the leadership of their heroic royals, are struggling to regain the temple complex of Angkor Wat, the center of their culture, from the invading Chams. Predictably structured with the requisite romance budding across enemy lines, the novel reads quickly and is populated by a host of archetypal characters: a brave fishing family, beautiful upper class women, warriors, insurgents, slaves, and concubines. Shors (Beneath a Marble Sky) simplified names as he fleshed out a history of which few accounts survive; thus, his use of language makes the characters our contemporaries, however, as historical fiction, the cultural details feel shallow, limited to clothing and some sketched views of the temples. Refreshingly, strong Khmer women carry the novel forward; offering a welcome change of perspective on the epic tradition. It's said that there are only two stories in the world—a man goes on a journey and a stranger comes to town; here, Shors gives us both. (Feb.)
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