33. The Passion of Dolssa, by Julie Berry. This was an amazing, artfully woven story. Berry mixes in a bit of history with her cast of memorable characters (the author's notes were fascinating and worth checking out). The beginning starts off a little slow, but after the first couple chapters the story picks up speed and the next thing I knew I was sucked in. Besides the research that went into the realistic setting, I also was impressed with the various twists and turns in the plot. Just when I thought I knew where things were going, surprise! One of the biggest surprises, towards the end, actually made me gasp out loud. The story itself centers around Botille and her two sisters, three young women whom, after a life of begging and petty crime, have managed to carve themselves a fairly respectable living in a provincial seaside town. One day, Botille is asked by the wealthy matron of the town to go find the matron's two nephews, whom she wants to inherit her estates since she has no surviving children. On the way back, Botille finds a starving maiden lying unconcsious off the road. She spirits the young woman, Dolssa, home to live with her sisters. Dolssa, she quickly finds out, is wanted by the church for heresy. Representatives from the church, led by a young, ambitious monk, are not soon far behind. But the town is thrown into a quandry when the sweet Dolssa turns out to have divine gifts for healing. The ending is heartbreaking and should serve as a powerful lesson about following leaders blindly. An added note- another feature I liked about the story is Dolssa herself. Unlike most saintly figures in stories, she is a good person, but she does have her shortcomings (mostly as a result of her sheltered upbringing and her noble background). She, too, learns and grows as a character. This was refreshing.
Currently reading: On the Burning Deck, by Tom Jones. Also have several books waiting for me at the library.