Apr 11th

ARC Review: The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

Posted in Reviews

Passion of Dolsa
Title: The Passion of Dolssa
Author: Julie Berry
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Date Published: April 12, 2016
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Where I got the book: eARC from the Penguin First to Read program (this in no way affects my review)
Synopsis (from goodreads):
I must write this account, and when I have finished, I will burn it.

Buried deep within the archives of a convent in medieval France is an untold story of love, loss, and wonder and the two girls at the heart of it all.

Dolssa is an upper-crust city girl with a secret lover and an uncanny gift. Branded a heretic, she’s on the run from the friar who condemned her mother to death by fire, and wants Dolssa executed, too.

Botille is a matchmaker and a tavern-keeper, struggling to keep herself and her sisters on the right side of the law in their seaside town of Bajas.

When their lives collide by a dark riverside, Botille rescues a dying Dolssa and conceals her in the tavern, where an unlikely friendship blooms. Aided by her sisters and Symo, her surly but loyal neighbor, Botille nurses Dolssa back to health and hides her from her pursuers. But all of Botille’s tricks, tales, and cleverness can’t protect them forever, and when the full wrath of the Church bears down upon Bajas, Dolssa’s passion and Botille’s good intentions could destroy the entire village.

From the author of the award-winning All the Truth That’s in Me comes a spellbinding thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final page and make you wonder if miracles really are possible.

There are not enough exclamation points to emphasize how excited I was when I first heard about this book and boy, do I love exclamation points. History, religion, sisterhood, heresy, taverns–what’s not to love! This particular historical period is not a common setting for young adult novels so I was eager to read what Julie Berry had created. Unfortunately, my review is not a very positive one; my disappointment with this novel is huge, but don’t let that turn you away! There is still a good story, great characters, an underutilized time period, and a realistic look at the horrors of the Inquisition.

I’ll begin with the things that upset me. DOLSSA! Seriously, I can’t stand her. I understand what she was supposed to be: a holy woman hunted by the church. I’m supposed to feel bad for how the church treats her and delight in the miracles she performs. Instead I felt no connection to her. I skimmed her parts of the story and if she’d said the words “my Beloved” one more time I would have vomited. I also feel a little baited. This may have been my own desires and personal assumptions, but I got the impression from the blurb that there might be a lesbian love story involved.

“Buried deep within the archives of a convent in medieval France is an untold story of love, loss, and wonder and the two girls at the heart of it all.”

I held out hope till the end, but it just didn’t happen. OH HOW I WISH IT HAD!! I understand Dolssa had her Beloved *vomit* and that was necessary to the spiritual elements of the story, but I was really hoping for a fourteenth century female/female love story. If you were too, I apologize for dashing your hopes. I also really disliked the writing style. There was a lot of flowery language that I felt was poorly done. I remember a specific incident with bouncing bosoms and grape stomping that was truly horrendous.

Now, to the plot problems. The first hundred pages were mind numbingly boring and the last hundred so fast paced that I had to reread parts. I almost DNF’d but I kept reading because of the excitement I originally felt for this book. When the story finally got interesting and I found myself actually invested in a few of the characters, IT ENDED!! The whole ending is ridiculously confusing. It consists of one person writing about another person, talking about another person, etcetera, etcetera, infinity. I actually had to read it three times before I fully understood what the author had done. Good idea, bad execution. To summarize, The Passion of Dolssa had a really slow start, over the top and flowery language, an epically boring main character, and the ending was confusing–but I still liked it.

All the negative things aside–I kept reading, still rated it 3 stars, and would still recommend it to historical fiction lovers. There are a lot of good things about The Passion of Dolssa, first of which is the incredible plot. Yes, I had to get a hundred pages in before I truly appreciated it, but the storyline got better as it progressed and was quite unique. I actually enjoyed reading about Botille’s village, Bajas. The setting as a whole was really neat. The time period, as I mentioned before, isn’t used much in young adult fiction and I really appreciated it in this story. I love reading about the Inquisition; those friars and priests did some heinous things and seeing it through the eyes of a teenage girl accused of heresy provides an interesting new point of view. I also adored the sisters. Botille, the matchmaker, is by far the best character with her wit, temper, and devotion to Dolssa. Her younger sister, the fortune teller, is slightly less impressive but plays an important part in the story line. Her older sister, the tavern keeper, shines as the love expert, tough alewife, and rational one of the bunch. Their relationship as a whole is one of the best parts of the story; watching them band together, weather all things, and still bicker amongst themselves is such a great experience. I loved Symo nearly as much as I loved the sisters. He’s such an ugly, surly character when we first meet him. He snaps at Botille every chance he gets–if you have any sense you can already guess where that leads–and he seems not to care for anything or anyone. He ends up a hero of the story in the end, surprising the other characters with a depth of which they didn’t think him capable. Even though I found Dolssa to be nauseating, I really loved the deep bond she formed with the sisters and how it shaped each of them into a new person.

This review has been hard to write; each positive seems to have a corresponding negative point and it’s hard to rate this book because of that. While I wanted to indulge in a big whiney rant about everything I disliked about this book, I also wanted to encourage the right readers to go buy it. The best way to convey how I feel might be to say that I had highest expectations and it only fell mildly short of those expectations. Unfortunately, the ways in which it fell short almost completely ruined it for me. Once I got past the overly flowery language, slow moving plot, and too much of Dolssa’s point of view in the first hundred pages, the rest of the book was riveting. I’m glad I pushed through, but in the end this book is just not for everyone. I really believe adults, especially those that love historical fiction, are the proper audience for a book with this much poetic language and slow, descriptive plot.

Help support local independent bookstores and our fledgling blog by buying through the following links! The Passion of Dolssa can be purchased at
Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC


The Passion of Dolssa

Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC


The Passion of Dolssa

and if neither are local to you, Amazon.

Passion of Dolsa
Title: The Passion of Dolssa
Author: Julie Berry
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Date Published: April 12, 2016
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Where I got the book: eARC from the Penguin First to Read program (this in no way affects my review)
Synopsis (from goodreads):
I must write this account, and when I have finished, I will burn it.

Buried deep within the archives of a convent in medieval France is an untold story of love, loss, and wonder and the two girls at the heart of it all.

Dolssa is an upper-crust city girl with a secret lover and an uncanny gift. Branded a heretic, she’s on the run from the friar who condemned her mother to death by fire, and wants Dolssa executed, too.

Botille is a matchmaker and a tavern-keeper, struggling to keep herself and her sisters on the right side of the law in their seaside town of Bajas.

When their lives collide by a dark riverside, Botille rescues a dying Dolssa and conceals her in the tavern, where an unlikely friendship blooms. Aided by her sisters and Symo, her surly but loyal neighbor, Botille nurses Dolssa back to health and hides her from her pursuers. But all of Botille’s tricks, tales, and cleverness can’t protect them forever, and when the full wrath of the Church bears down upon Bajas, Dolssa’s passion and Botille’s good intentions could destroy the entire village.

From the author of the award-winning All the Truth That’s in Me comes a spellbinding thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final page and make you wonder if miracles really are possible.

There are not enough exclamation points to emphasize how excited I was when I first heard about this book and boy, do I love exclamation points. History, religion, sisterhood, heresy, taverns–what’s not to love! This particular historical period is not a common setting for young adult novels so I was eager to read what Julie Berry had created. Unfortunately, my review is not a very positive one; my disappointment with this novel is huge, but don’t let that turn you away! There is still a good story, great characters, an underutilized time period, and a realistic look at the horrors of the Inquisition.

I’ll begin with the things that upset me. DOLSSA! Seriously, I can’t stand her. I understand what she was supposed to be: a holy woman hunted by the church. I’m supposed to feel bad for how the church treats her and delight in the miracles she performs. Instead I felt no connection to her. I skimmed her parts of the story and if she’d said the words “my Beloved” one more time I would have vomited. I also feel a little baited. This may have been my own desires and personal assumptions, but I got the impression from the blurb that there might be a lesbian love story involved.

“Buried deep within the archives of a convent in medieval France is an untold story of love, loss, and wonder and the two girls at the heart of it all.”

I held out hope till the end, but it just didn’t happen. OH HOW I WISH IT HAD!! I understand Dolssa had her Beloved *vomit* and that was necessary to the spiritual elements of the story, but I was really hoping for a fourteenth century female/female love story. If you were too, I apologize for dashing your hopes. I also really disliked the writing style. There was a lot of flowery language that I felt was poorly done. I remember a specific incident with bouncing bosoms and grape stomping that was truly horrendous.

Now, to the plot problems. The first hundred pages were mind numbingly boring and the last hundred so fast paced that I had to reread parts. I almost DNF’d but I kept reading because of the excitement I originally felt for this book. When the story finally got interesting and I found myself actually invested in a few of the characters, IT ENDED!! The whole ending is ridiculously confusing. It consists of one person writing about another person, talking about another person, etcetera, etcetera, infinity. I actually had to read it three times before I fully understood what the author had done. Good idea, bad execution. To summarize, The Passion of Dolssa had a really slow start, over the top and flowery language, an epically boring main character, and the ending was confusing–but I still liked it.

All the negative things aside–I kept reading, still rated it 3 stars, and would still recommend it to historical fiction lovers. There are a lot of good things about The Passion of Dolssa, first of which is the incredible plot. Yes, I had to get a hundred pages in before I truly appreciated it, but the storyline got better as it progressed and was quite unique. I actually enjoyed reading about Botille’s village, Bajas. The setting as a whole was really neat. The time period, as I mentioned before, isn’t used much in young adult fiction and I really appreciated it in this story. I love reading about the Inquisition; those friars and priests did some heinous things and seeing it through the eyes of a teenage girl accused of heresy provides an interesting new point of view. I also adored the sisters. Botille, the matchmaker, is by far the best character with her wit, temper, and devotion to Dolssa. Her younger sister, the fortune teller, is slightly less impressive but plays an important part in the story line. Her older sister, the tavern keeper, shines as the love expert, tough alewife, and rational one of the bunch. Their relationship as a whole is one of the best parts of the story; watching them band together, weather all things, and still bicker amongst themselves is such a great experience. I loved Symo nearly as much as I loved the sisters. He’s such an ugly, surly character when we first meet him. He snaps at Botille every chance he gets–if you have any sense you can already guess where that leads–and he seems not to care for anything or anyone. He ends up a hero of the story in the end, surprising the other characters with a depth of which they didn’t think him capable. Even though I found Dolssa to be nauseating, I really loved the deep bond she formed with the sisters and how it shaped each of them into a new person.

This review has been hard to write; each positive seems to have a corresponding negative point and it’s hard to rate this book because of that. While I wanted to indulge in a big whiney rant about everything I disliked about this book, I also wanted to encourage the right readers to go buy it. The best way to convey how I feel might be to say that I had highest expectations and it only fell mildly short of those expectations. Unfortunately, the ways in which it fell short almost completely ruined it for me. Once I got past the overly flowery language, slow moving plot, and too much of Dolssa’s point of view in the first hundred pages, the rest of the book was riveting. I’m glad I pushed through, but in the end this book is just not for everyone. I really believe adults, especially those that love historical fiction, are the proper audience for a book with this much poetic language and slow, descriptive plot.

Help support local independent bookstores and our fledgling blog by buying through the following links! The Passion of Dolssa can be purchased at
Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC


The Passion of Dolssa

Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC


The Passion of Dolssa

and if neither are local to you, Amazon.

By Kate Woods

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