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Fiction review: The Pillars of the World Trilogy

The Pillars of the World, 2001
Shadows and Light, 2002
The House of Gaian, 2003
Anne Bishop
Published by ROC Fantasy

The good witches are struggling to keep their world safe and sacred, though most humans fear them and most of the Fae look down on them as second-class servants. Bishop's trilogy, appealing to both young adults and adults, is set in a time of crisis. Most of the Fae have ignored the mundane world except to amuse themselves from time to time. They've relied on the work of the witches to safeguard their shadowy roads between the worlds.

Suddenly, the roads are disappearing, trapping the Fae and destroying parts of the earth. And no one knows why. At the same time, Adolpho, the Master Inquisitor, is leading a movement to make the men of his world take up their “rightful rule” over women and to destroy the witches.

The first book follows the life of Ari, a young witch who loses her mother and grandmother before she learns everything she needs to know to fulfill her duties. Despite her innocence, she is a powerful witch and becomes a key part of the Fae’s plans to stop the roads from disappearing and to make things easier for themselves. She is also a target of the Master Inquisitor.

In Shadows and Light, witches are being slaughtered and the sacred lands they protect laid to waste. The focus switches to Aiden the Bard and Lyrra the Muse, two of the Fae who understand that the worlds of the Fae and the witches/humans must work together to survive. The pair must convince the rest of the Fae to repay the witches for the long-unacknowledged work they’ve done to keep everyone safe.

The House of Gaian brings it all together. Finally admitting that they are facing a common enemy, the witches, humans and Fae form an uneasy alliance. Yet they aren't strong enough to stand against the Master Inquisitor’s army and his relentless hunger to destroy the witches. The only hope the alliance has is to persuade the House of Gaian, a group of reclusive, very powerful witches, to join them in their struggles.

The story is compelling, but for me the main appeal of this trilogy lies in the characters themselves, particularly the witches, and the attention to pagan details. One of my favorite characters is Morag, the witch whose life’s work is to follow Death and gather the souls of the dead. She is a wonderful combination of dark and light — a woman who is both loved and feared.

Nothing is simple in this story. The witches struggle with their spiritual creed to harm none and their seemingly opposing need to survive. If you adhere to the idea that all things are connected — and most Goddess women do — you’ll very likely be surprised but not disappointed by the culmination of events in this amazing tale.

Graphics Credits

  • book cover, courtesy of the publisher, ROC.
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