Saturday, June 14, 2014
The Habitation of the Blessed - Cathrynne M. Valente
The legends of Prester John were popular among medieval Christians. He was said to be a priest and king of a Christian kingdom somewhere amongst the Muslims kingdoms of the Middle East. He was thought to be a wise and benevolent ruler, and it was fashionable for a time to try and find his kingdom.
This book draws from those legends and presents in two times: 1699 – when some traveling monks in the Himalayas find some books that tell of Prester John’s kingdom, and the stories in those books. The kingdom - Pentexore - is a fantastic place peopled with magical creatures, where no one dies. Prester John finds his way there after a storm, and his coming changes Pentexore forever. This is the first book in a series, so while it foreshadows great changes, it only hints at what those will be.
Valente’s writing style of what I usually think of as word painting – incredibly dense descriptions that paint a vivid picture, if you can wade through them. This is a style that I tend to either love (Patricia A. McKillip) or hate. I have to admit, I was tending toward the hate side in this book. The images she was conjuring were amazing, and vivid, but at times, too much. I wouldn’t say this means I’d tell people not to read this book, but, if you’re like me, and tend toward the edge of liking this writing style, do tread carefully.