Book Review: The Passion of Dolssa

Posted April 4, 2016 by Kara in book review, Kara / 4 Comments

Book Review: The Passion of DolssaThe Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
Published by Viking Books For Young Readers on April 12th 2016
Genres: young adult, historical
Pages: 496
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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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.

Sometimes the best books are the ones that leave you feeling conflicted. There were things I really loved about this book, but there were things that left me feeling confused an unsure of how I should feel.

The Passion of Dolssa does not have a happy ending. I don’t think that’s a spoiler, but I also feel it’s really necessary to state, because if you go into this one reading and hoping things will work out and be fine, you’re going to be incredibly disappointed and possibly emotionally destroyed. To be honest, I wish I had known because I don’t know if I would have read it. I’m just not in the right mental space for this kind of ending. I felt very distraught and agitated upon finishing. Since I am someone who deals with depression and anxiety on a daily basis, books may affect me differently than others and I always try to be as honest in my reviews as I possibly can be because of that.

The book was a bit dry at first. I liked the writing though, from the start. So perhaps that, and the fact that I had never read a book set in this time period about this subject, made me continue on. And I am glad I did, because at right about the halfway point things got REALLY tense and interesting.

Religion is a major topic in The Passion of Dolssa, but not in the way we are used to. This is the Christianity of old, where people were burned for heresy, including children and families. These friars of inquisition were the law of the land. In the name of religion, they could kill anyone for any reason and there was no one that could or would intervene for fear of becoming the next victim.

Dolssa was a young woman that could work miracles: heal illnesses and save families in Jhesus’s name. She believed that he spoke to her and she lived for him and called him “her beloved.” This was the part that confused me because she treated him like a boyfriend, and though she had never met him, she believed she was in a romantic relationship with him. It was all a bit bizarre for me. I was fine with God working miracles through her, but I didn’t understand the rest of the connection. Other than that, I really liked Dolssa, but I wish I had spend more time in her point of view.

The main protagonist was Botille, a small town girl who worked as a matchmaker. She brought husbands and wives together, and lived in a tavern with her two sisters, one older and one younger, and her disabled stepfather, who lived in the loft upstairs. Dolssa comes into their life when Botille finds her lying half dead next to the river in the grass. Dolssa managed to escape her execution when she was freed by a secret person (we find out who this is in the end and it’s not really a surprise if you’re paying attention). Botille’s family takes her in, but someone like Dolssa can’t stay hidden forever, and when people in town need her to pray over them, she can’t resist; it’s her duty and her calling.

The one thing I have to mention, is that even though this is technically a young adult book, it doesn’t really feel like one. The ages of the characters are not apparent and they certainly aren’t a focus. The relationships feel very adult in nature (not sexual), and the subject matter doesn’t feel very ya in tone. That said, it’s not a book that teens wouldn’t like, but it’s definitely got major crossover appeal.

I’m waiting for more people to read this, because there was a part of the ending that confused me. And I need to talk it over with someone. I severely, severely dislike when an ending isn’t clear or isn’t concluded properly, which did affect my overall rating of this book.


4 responses to “Book Review: The Passion of Dolssa

  1. I wish we’d gotten to spend more time with Dolssa too! According to the book, she wrote plenty, but we get almost nothing. But absolutely, this is one of the books for which people need warnings. I was okay with that sad, sad ending because I’ve apparently been in need of a book to cry over, but not everyone can handle that being sprung on them. It takes a special mood. Everything after Jobau’s entrance and story toward the end had me sobbing almost endlessly.

    Maybe my brain was frazzled due to eighty pages of crying, but the ending made sense to me. If you want to talk it over with me, let me know!

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