The Passion of Dolssa – Julie Berry

A Book Review by Grace Heine

Title: The Passion of Dolssa
Written by: Julie Berry
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Viking Children’s Books
Publication Date: April 12, 2016
Paperback: 512 pages

She stood there in her blue robe, with a simple white cap over her dark hair. And even if I’m called a liar for it, I swear this is true: clouds over la mar parted, letting a beam of golden sunlight pierce through and illuminate the spot on which she stood. … She was an angel in blue, halo and all.” (Page 248)

Miracle (n.)an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.

Dolssa is a heretic in the eyes of the church for preaching about “her beloved”. For this crime, she and her mother were condemned to burn at the stake. However, by a miracle, Dolssa escapes death and is now on the run from her accuser: Friar Lucian de Saint-Honore.

On her way back from a long errand Botille stumbles upon a girl. A girl who is starving and dirty. A girl who is alone and dying. A girl who is Dolssa, the beloved of Jhesus. Botille returns to her home in Bajas and with help from her sisters revives the girl.

Once Dolssa is healed the miracles start and Botille’s life is forever changed.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I picked up this book. I thought it was about a runaway princess, the tavern maid who befriends her, and the adventures they have together.

Spoiler warning: it’s not.

Dolssa is a heretic being chased by Friar Lucian de Saint-Honore, and Botille is a matchmaker with attitude (although she does live in a tavern). The two girls meet under dire circumstances – did I mention the inquisition? – and things only become more dangerous because the Church of Christ does not give up a hunt for amicx de Dieu easily.

I feel as if I can say nothing more about this book than: The Passion of Dolssa is stunning.

This is the kind of book that makes your mouth hang open in stupefied awe and tears out a piece of your heart at the end.

Oh, the end –

The ending was so surprising – yet I’d known it from the beginning. I was wishing so hard for something different to happen that I convinced myself the ending I foresaw couldn’t come to pass.

It did of course, because happily-ever-after’s are for princesses and as I’ve told you: Dolssa is a heretic.

I have nothing but deep respect for Julie Berry.

The book is set in 13th century France, which may or may not have been beautiful but The Passion of Dolssa portrayed it as such. When imagining the scenery for this book I see lush landscapes, green and so, so alive. I see deep blue rivers, pale and parched fields, grey, coarse convent walls and golden, hay strewn streets flowing with dark red blood.

I recommend this book for older teens and adults who like historical fiction, medieval France, and/or books about church heretics.

For More Information about the Book and Author Click: HERE

Age Range: 13 and up


Violence: A man is hit over the back of the head rendering him unconscious. People fight. Two men are flogged then branded by a hot iron with the sign of the cross. A man is shot with an arrow. Three women and one man are burned at the stake. We hear of many more heretics being tortured and/or murdered. We are told a man killed a soldier.

Sensuality: The priest gets an unwed woman pregnant and she isn’t the first. Several prostitutes are met or talked about. Lucian has a vivid, and sensual dream about a woman. Two different couples kiss. Botille is a matchmaker. Plazensa occasionally sleeps with men to earn a little extra money. A marriage occurs and several are mentioned in passing. Dolssa refers to Jesus as “her beloved” and Botille often comments upon how Dolssa acts like a lover. A woman is thought to be sneaking away to a man who isn’t her husband.

Profanity: J–k-ss, d–n, s–t, and h–l are said.

Other(drugs/alcohol): Botille gets drunk. The sisters live in/own a bar. Their father is a drunk. Sazia reads people’s palms, and so did her mother. At one point several characters talk about farting. Villagers betray each other to avoid the wrath of the church. Botille lies many times to various people. The church is viewed in both a negative and positive light.

Personal Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Cleanness Rating: 3 ½ out of 5 stars

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Grace Heine is a 17-year-old wanna be writer who spends most of her time reading, writing, playing piano, or finding clever ways to be unproductive. You can visit her book review blog here.

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