Shors delivers Angkor
|John Shors latest novel, Temple of a Thousand Faces|
A lush novel of revenge - by Sandra Dallas (The Denver Post).
John Shors lives in Lafayette, but the Colorado author's books encompass the world. His best-selling Beneath a Marble Sky takes place in India and is a love story about the building of the Taj Mahal, while his other books are set against the backdrop of the South Pacific, Thailand or Vietnam. In Temple of a Thousand Faces, Shors turns to the dazzling empire of 12th-century Cambodia to produce a novel as lush and exotic as Angkor Wat itself. Based on the tale of a war a thousand years ago, this story of an epic struggle between Khmers and Chams (Vietnamese) is filled with romance, intrigue, betrayal and battle - in short, everything you could ever want in a novel. Khmer King Jayavar, a benevolent ruler, is forced to flee when his kingdom is attacked by the Chams, whose quaint lotus-flower hats and quilted armor fail to disguise their viciousness in battle. They are led by King Indravarman, as evil a man as ever lived in the pages of literature. Deposed but not destroyed, Jayavar and his wife, Ajadevi, seek refuge in the jungle where they assemble a force of Khmer warriors and Siamese mercenaries intent on retaking the country. Since all of Jayavar's children have been killed by the Chams and she is infertile, Ajadevi insists Jayavar take a second wife so that his bloodline will survive, which is sort of unbelievable in today's world but apparently made perfect sense in 1177.
As Jayavar gathers his forces (and pursues his wife's suggestion of establishing a dynasty,) he is joined by a fisherman, his wife and two sons. One has been humiliated and nearly killed by the Chams and is eager for revenge, while his nearly blind brother has devised a plan to defeat the enemy. He confides it to Jayavar. Meanwhile, in occupied Angkor Wat, Indravarman readies for the final battle with the Khmers. A brutal man, he is ruthless not only with the captured Khmers but also with his own men, personally devising ways to torture and kill. Think tying a Cham warrior's legs to two elephants or skinning him alive. Little wonder that even his most loyal underlings are a bit nervous. One of them is Asal, Indravarman's brilliant strategist and soldier. Although he fears Indravarman will kill him when he is no longer useful, Asal is loyal. That is until the Cham king gives him the beautiful Khmer woman Voisanne. Indravarman expects such captured women to be beaten and raped, but Asal is too honorable to treat a woman this way. He falls in love with Voisanne, of course, and begins to question his king's brutality.
As if an evil king and employer isn't enough, Asal also must contend with Po Rame, Indravarman's assassin, who loves nothing more than killing and stealing the souls of those he murders. If possible, Po Rame is even more villainous than his king which tells you what a rough go of it Asal has. All this adds up to a wonderfully complex epic novel of love and lust, mystery and epic war. It's all played out against the kind of exotic background that makes Shors' grand books best sellers. Temple of a Thousand Faces, with its lush sun-lit hillsides filled with blue butterflies and exotic ruins, is just right for a cold winter's read.