Friday, 15 February 2013

Review: Temple Boy by Heidi Cullinan

I'm rather embarrassed to say that this book has been on my review pile for a long time. Not because I didn't want to read it, but because I wasn't sure I would be able to pick it up and read without re-reading the first book in the Etsey Series, and I wasn't sure I'd have time to re-read The Seventh Veil. In the end, I decided just to go ahead and read this book without re-reading the first book and I was surprised at how much I remembered from the first book.

Temple Boy begins a short time after the end of The Seventh Veil. Charles, Madeline and Jonathan have travelled from Etsey to Catal where they are searching for a shard of Timothy, Charles' lover whose soul was split into seven and cast out into the world at the end of the last book. Unfortunately, one of the androghenie,  Bassam, who Charles previously had released from captivity, returns to take his revenge on Charles. Bassam has raised Alys, one of the P’dka from Catal, from the dead and instructs her to kill Charles. Alys beheads Charles and thus sets off a chain of events which affects not only our main characters, but Alys, a temple boy from Mantua called Aurel, a pirate, and a tribe of warrior women on the edge of the desert.

This book does not obey the laws of physics.

Once you understand that fact, and also accept that you will probably spend much of this book feeling somewhat confused, then this is actually a complex and interesting book to read. Our temple boy, Aurel, states on a number of occasions that his struggle to understand the events and theories in the book is giving him a headache:

 “I don’t understand,” Aurel whispered, desperate.

and his feelings perfectly mirrored my own.  Even after finishing the book and having time to reflect on its themes, there's much that didn't really make sense, mostly to do with the whole theory of the Lord and Lady and Goddess and whose soul is who.

As far as I could work out, the story takes place in two places. The first place is the physical realm where the characters' real bodies exist. It's in these parts that the story worked best for me. I liked the creativeness of the worlds, especially in the history of Catal and its current devastation. The themes of home and belonging are strong in this book as Madeline struggles to find any sense of peace in Catal or the desert, Alys longs for the restoration of her city, and the Zamoan tribe of women wish for a place they can find rest after being forced to grub out an existence on the edge of the desert.

 The second place is the spiritual realm where the souls/spirits/shards/ghosts/haven'tgotacluewhattocallthem exist. In the spiritual realm people are whisked away either with or without their bodies and talk what seems like nonsense to each other about the theories of what is happening in the spirit world.  Sometimes the spirit world intrudes on the physical world through magic, or by the god's manipulations, such as Charles and his talking severed head.  These sections worked less well for me mainly because I found it difficult to picture what was happening clearly in my head. Maybe other readers won't have as much trouble as I did.

The story is also made up of several plot points which begin to intertwine as the book continues. Out of these, my sympathies lay mostly with Aurel and his struggles with his Cloister upbringing. His naivety was quite charming and out of all the characters he is the one who experiences the most growth.  I also liked the pirate, Captain James Gibbs, whose earthy personality added a touch of normality to the proceedings, although he is still rather an enigma by the end of the book. Perhaps more will be revealed in the next book which looks to focus on James and Charles.

Alongside the plots are several different romances, and like the first book, there is a range of m/m, m/f/m, f/f. and m/f relationships and sex scenes. Out of these, it was the dignified and tender f/f relationship which affected me the most, whereas Aurel's m/m relationship left me unmoved - perhaps because it relied on the 'soul mates' type of love which never really works for me.  Developments are made in Madeline and Jonathan's relationship, mainly because they are apart for most of the book. Jonathan barely features at all, as the story focuses on Madeline and her development as a witch. I found that I missed Jonathan, but also saw the wisdom in keeping the two apart since Jonathan has a tendency to be over-protective.

Overall, I had mixed feelings about the book. In terms of scale and depth, this really is quite an extraordinary piece of fantasy writing, and there were times when I was so caught up in what was happening on the page that I admired this author's skill greatly . However, I also found much of it difficult to grasp and was annoyed rather than amused by the interference of Charles and Timothy who often came across as a bit meddling with their enigmatic statements as to how everything should be.  I also feel that I should warn readers that there are scenes of violent rape in the book, in case that is a something that you wish to avoid. personally, I understood why it had to take place.

In the end, I have decided to give this book a grade of 'Good'. Parts of it were inspired and wonderful, and parts were like wading through mud.

Buy this book HERE.


  1. Lovely review! I haven't read the first book's been on my TBR list for a while...not sure why I haven't picked it up...must not quite be in the mood for fantasy?

    1. Thanks, Orannia :).

      I really liked the first book. I'm in a fantasy mood at the moment!


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