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January 28, 2016

Review: Pillars of Light by Jane Johnson

 

Pillars of Light

Diana Gabaldon meets Ken Follett in this epic story of love, war and redemption.

In the Syrian city of Akka, Nathanael, a young Jewish doctor, and a Muslim girl called Zohra are about to fall in love, unaware that Jerusalem has just been taken by Saladin’s army and that their city will soon be engulfed by war.
Meanwhile in England, John Savage, a foundling boy, runs away from his cruel life in a priory with The Moor, a mysterious man driven by a dream of perfection.
John and The Moor become members of a band of conmen travelling through the English countryside faking religious miracles for cash, until they are recruited in Richard the Lionheart’s drive to regain the Latin Kingdom from the infidel. Akka awaits. It will be the site of the greatest–and cruellest–siege of its time. But even in the midst of war, lovers find ways to make transactions of beauty.
Pillars of Light is a powerful and moving novel about the triumph of the human spirit against all the odds. It will delight fans of Philippa Gregory, Ken Follett and Diana Gabaldon.

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Pillars of Light by Jane Johnson
Publication Date:  January 5, 2016
Publisher:  Doubleday Canada

Available for Purchase:
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I couldn’t find a trailer, so here’s a song!

** This title was provided to us by the Publisher for an honest review.
We were in no way compensated for our opinions. **

 

Chapter-by-Chapter-header---Review

 

Gabby-2013Initially it was the cover for Jane Johnson’s Pillars of Light that caught my attention. I’m a sucker for novels set in the Middle East and I especially have grown to love well-written historical fiction. Pillars of Light is definitely a wonderful combination of both. I can wholeheartedly say that I was surprised by how intrigued I was by Pillars of Light and how I couldn’t put this page-turner down.

Set during the 12th Century, Pillars of Light is a novel set during the Third Crusade as the city of Akka is laid under siege. Characters Zohra and Nathanael are both young and on the verge of falling in love when Akka is attacked, and both characters are both divided between their feelings and their respective duties. However, as the siege of Akka grows extreme and the war begins to take its toll on the city’s inhabitants, the struggle to survive sets in.

Meanwhile, in England, John Savage accompanies an enigmatic, mysterious man simply known as ‘the Moor’ upon being rescued from his life in a priory. Together, the Moor and John join a band of misfits who intend to con the citizens of the country in order to make a living. But when a con goes wrong, the party of cons are recruited to join the King’s military in an attempt to take back the city of Akka.

I fell in love with the world that Johnson brought to life within Pillars of Light’s pages. More specifically, I loved Akka and Johnson’s portrayal of the city. From our first introduction to the city to its development throughout the war, Akka is a setting that easily becomes one of the novel’s greatest characters. Within Akka, we meet Zohra and Nathanael, a pair of lovers who I adored throughout reading.

Zohra and Nathanael were my favorite characters in the novel, hands-down. Though Pillars of Light is divided between John Savage’s story and Zohra/Nathanael’s, I found the latter’s storyline to be far more compelling. Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for romance? Who knows? All I can say is that everything about Zohra and Nathanael’s characters were magnificent and I loved the aura of realism that radiated from them throughout the novel.

With Pillars of Light being divided between multiple storyline that help the plot progress, it isn’t totally surprising that there were portions of the novel that felt choppy and disturbed the novel’s pacing. This was fine with me as I found Johnson’s writing to be gorgeous, but the only complaint that I would have with the way the novel jumped around from point to point was the fact that so many important scenes were summarized. I won’t be specific because of spoilers, but there were so many instances where moments that I had been on the edge of my seat to experience never saw the light of day, and were instead brushed upon and left in the background. I wish that more time had been taken to do more showing and less telling in that regard.

Pillars of Light is a fantastic piece of historical fiction that readers won’t be able to put down. There’s always the lingering question of ‘What will happen next?’ that will keep readers flipping pages for hours on-end until they reach the story’s conclusion. I would recommend Pillars of Light to readers who want a novel that deals with historical fiction but has the pacing of a thriller. Any readers who want a novel that touches the horrors of war and searches for the humanity, or lack thereof, when it comes to the atrocities of war should also definitely give it a shot.

 

About Jane Johnson

Jane Johnson

Jane Johnson is from Cornwall and has worked in the book industry for 20 years, as a bookseller, publisher and writer.

She was responsible for publishing the works of J R R Tolkien during the 1980s and 1990s and worked on Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, spending many months in New Zealand with cast and crew. Under the pseudonym of Jude Fisher she wrote three bestselling Visual Companions to the films. She has also written several books for children.

In 2005 she was in Morocco researching the story of a distant family member who was abducted from a Cornish church in 1625 by Barbary pirates and sold into slavery in North Africa (which formed the basis for Crossed Bones / The Tenth Gift), when a near-fatal climbing incident caused her to rethink her future.

She returned home, gave up her office job in London, sold her flat and shipped the contents to Morocco. In October she married her own 'Berber pirate' and now they split their time between Cornwall and a village in the Anti-Atlas Mountains.

She still works, remotely, as Fiction Publishing Director for HarperCollins.

 

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