By Julie Berry
Viking, 2016, 478 pages, Young Adult Historical Fiction
In mid-thirteenth century Provence, Dolssa de Stigata is a fervently religious girl who feels the call to preach. For this she is condemned by the Inquisition as an "unnatural woman," and hunted by the Dominican Friar Lucien who fears a resurgence of the Albigensian heresy. A few towns away, Botille is a matchmaker trying to protect her sisters from being branded as gypsies or witches. When Botille finds the hunted Dolssa dying on a hillside, she feels compelled to protect her--a decision that may cost her everything.
For those who don’t know, a synonym for the word “passion” in the title is “martyrdom.” So this isn’t necessarily a happy story. However, it is beautifully written and well researched. Although it deals with dark topics, the relationships between many of the characters were positive and uplifting.
The character of Dolssa is based on famous mystics such as Julian of Norwich. Berry could have painted Dolssa as wholly angelic, with little to no personality. However, Berry gives her trials and inner struggles to help make her more relatable. Botille is even more relatable, and this is really her story and the story of the townspeople affected by Dolssa. This was a great introduction to a topic I knew little about, and the beautiful writing has stayed with me.