Not sure what I expected when I picked this up, but wow. The opening voices immediately caught me up in worry for this heretic and kept me reading to find out exactly what happened to her.
And when Botille and her sisters (the mistresses of the Three Pigeons Tavern) came on the scene, I was completely hooked. They stole the show. With a slight (Chocolat) flavor of magic, we get the eldest brewer, Botille the cunning matchmaker, and Sazia the fortune teller. Their small town machinations and the hearty good will of the farmers and fishermen in their town of Bajas was the best part of the book. I was saddened by what happens to Bajas.
The book begins with Dolssa de Stigata happily living a carefree life in the house of her mother. She communes nightly with her “beloved” but when she starts telling others about her beloved and his love for all, the local priests start paying attention and call in the inquisitors.
Botille and Dolssa meet while Dolssa’s on the run and Botille brings her back to Bajas to care for her. Magical and terrible things happen.
There’s a lot of scholarship and great linguistic research behind this book. There wasn’t much difference to me in the voices of all the clerics (except for Lucien who is obsessed with finding Dolssa for his own, not entirely holy reasons) but I didn’t care as their parts had lots of juicy history and cultural knowledge attached.
By the last third of the book, when the inevitable happens and Dolssa is found, I was less pleased with the way things turned out. Things sort of unravel at a great pace and thus get a little blurry and less impactful to me.
Still, very worth reading despite some of the slower cleric POV parts…just to meet Botille and her sisters. I wish I could have read just a whole story about them and the courtship of cranky Symo the farmer with Botille.