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The Habitation of the Blessed (Dirge for Prester John #01)by Catherynne M. Valente
Synopses & Reviews
This is the story of a place that never was: the kingdom of Prester John, the utopia described by an anonymous, twelfth-century document which captured the imagination of the medieval world and drove hundreds of lost souls to seek out its secrets, inspiring explorers, missionaries, and kings for centuries. But what if it were all true? What if there was such a place, and a poor, broken priest once stumbled past its borders, discovering, not a Christian paradise, but a country where everything is possible, immortality is easily had, and the Western world is nothing but a dim and distant dream?
Brother Hiob of Luzerne, on missionary work in the Himalayan wilderness on the eve of the eighteenth century, discovers a village guarding a miraculous tree whose branches sprout books instead of fruit. These strange books chronicle the history of the kingdom of Prester John, and Hiob becomes obsessed with the tales they tell. The Habitation of the Blessed recounts the fragmented narratives found within these living volumes, revealing the life of a priest named John, and his rise to power in this country of impossible richness. John's tale weaves together with the confessions of his wife Hagia, a blemmye — a headless creature who carried her face on her chest — as well as the tender, jeweled nursery stories of Imtithal, nanny to the royal family. Hugo and World Fantasy award nominee Catherynne M. Valente reimagines the legends of Prester John in this stunning tour de force.
"In 1165, a letter ostensibly written by the distant Christian king Prester John describing a kingdom of wonders rocked medieval Europe. In this enchanting retelling of the legend, the first volume in a projected trilogy, Hugo nominee Valente (Palimpsest) imagines what might have been discovered by Rome's ambassadors if the letter had not been a hoax. Nothing is quite as fabulous as the pious priests had hoped. Prester John and St. Thomas the Twin married nonhuman women; the Fountain of Youth does not sparkle, but instead 'oozes thick and oily, globbed with algae and the eggs of improbable mayflies.' Three very different personalities narrate: the brooding Prester John himself; his carefree and openhearted wife, the blemmye Hagia; and maternal Imtithal of the elephant-eared panotii. Filled with lyrical prose and fabled creatures, this languorous fairy tale is as captivating as Prester John's original letter. (Dec.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
Brother Hiob of Luzern, on missionary work in The East on the eve of the 16th century, stumbles across a miraculous tree who's fruits are books... books which chronicle the Kingdom of Prester John. The Habitation of the Blessed recounts the fragmented narratives found within these miraculous volumes, revealing John's rise to power... from John's own viewpoint... from the viewpoint of his wife Hagia, and from the viewpoint of Hajji, a prayer-cantor who vowed to end John's illegitimate reign. World Fantasy Award nominee Catherynne M.Valente reimagines the legends of Prester John in this stunning tour de force.
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