By Catherynne M. Valente, Night Shade Books, $14.99, 269 pages
Brother Hiob von Luzerne is a missionary in the area of New Byzantium (modern-day Turkey) who is searching for information on the history of Prester John, a missionary priest who eventually came to rule the kingdom several centuries before. What he finds on his search is a secluded village that has a tree which grows books rather than fruit. There Hiob finds three stories – the first from Prester John, the second from his wife and the third from the nanny to the royal family. Desperate is his search for knowledge, Hiob finds not the answers he expects, but more questions and challenges to his faith and view of the world.
An engrossing tale from the first page, Catherynne M. Valente has created a lyrical and rhythmic tale that pulls the reader in. The interlocking tales found in the books Hiob reads blends with his own story and his increasingly dreaded realizations that his hero was not perfect but a fallible human after all. A fantastic blend of myth, history and fantasy, The Habitation of the Blessed is a delightfully fascinating novel that cannot be put down.
Reviewed by Barbara Cothern