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Fiction Review – Temple of a Thousand Faces

Temple of a Thousand Faces by John Shors

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)


John Shors is a sure bet for me when I’m looking to escape into the pages of a book. In his latest novel, Temple of a Thousand Faces, Shors takes his readers to Cambodia.  He captures the lushness of the land, the majesty of Angkor Wat, and the essence of the people in a way that transports me to another time and place.

The novel takes place in the 12th century and is centered on the attack on the Khmer people by the rival Chams, led by King Indravarman.  We meet people of all walks of life amongst the Khmers and their experiences throughout the attack and occupation by the Chams.

Prince Jayavar and his wife Ajadevi lead the Khmer people with wisdom and humility.  Their love for one another and their people propel them to do what is honorable and best for their people.  Working class fisherman Boran, his wife Soriya, and twin sons Vibol and Prak remain loyal to Prince Jayavar and develop plots to fight the Chams.  Voisanne is the daughter of a wealthy family taken by the enemy during the attack and given to one of King Indravarman’s best warriors, Asal, for his efforts in the Cham army.  Voisanne and Asal develop a connection that transcends the differences of their people and circumstances.  Po Rame is an assassin for the Cham king and takes pleasure in watching the souls leave the bodies of his victims.  Thida is a young woman who gains all of her self-worth from her beauty and is used by King Indravarman in his efforts to entrap Asal and Voisanne.  Shors weaves the lives of all of these characters together into a vibrant tapestry to bring to life a time period and people about which little is documented.

The theme of reincarnation is explored throughout the book with various characters but especially with Ajadevi.  She is able to access wisdom gained through experiences during past lives and apply that wisdom to her current situations.  She provides support and counsel for Prince Jayavar and is his primary confidant.  Her strength and dignity make Ajadevi one of my favorite characters in the book.

In my opinion, Temple of a Thousand Faces deserves 5 stars for these reasons: 1) the complex and compelling characters provide a variety of perspectives on a singular event, thus providing a richness to the overall story; 2) the obvious research Shors completed in order to write this novel provide an end product that is detailed, descriptive, and allows the reader to picture the landscape and people clearly; and 3) the themes of reincarnation and redemption are explored in different ways for the various characters thus making the novel a multi-layered experience for the reader.

Looking for a way to travel this summer but don’t have the budget to physically take a trip?  Try picking up this novel. And for a bonus, you can experience Cambodia without the frustrating mosquitoes described in the book.







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