Review: The Pillars of the World by Anne Bishop

The Pillars of the WorldThis book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Fairies, or “the Fae,” as they’re sometimes called, have become fantasy literature’s staple characters. Who they are and what they do usually doesn’t vary much between books.

Anne Bishop’s The Pillars of the World, however, explores a reality where the Fae mingle with mortals and rely on them more than even they realize.

In a world that pulses with the elements’ subtle magic, Adolpho the Inquisitor abhors magic. A witch-hunter sworn to “save” magic-touched unfortunates, his hatred compels him to slaughter those who hold the powers of earth, water, air and fire. Adolpho gathers followers and teaches them the arts of extracting confessions and dissipating magic. His teachings prove to have unexpected consequences for the natural realm.

Ari, gifted with the powers of earth and fire, lives alone and nearly friendless until one summer moon when, compelled by a spell, she trysts with a Fae Lord. Now Ari finds herself visited by others of the Fae: some who want to befriend her, others who see her as a threat. The Fae lands are vanishing, their links to the mortal realm dissolving, and many Fae believe the witches are to blame. Beset on all sides, are the witches really at fault, or does guilt lie elsewhere?

Bishop’s latest novel creates a hard-edged fantasy world that doesn’t flinch away from life’s ugliness; neither does it sink to gratuitous violence. The author walks a fine line, letting readers know the terrible torture the Inquisitors inflict without dwelling on it overlong. Similarly, Bishop doesn’t shy away from sexual situations, but again, doesn’t overdo them.

The characters herein carry the story well, and the Fae are especially well done. Their sometimes total lack of understanding about human concerns gives them an air of haughtiness suitable for a people supposedly so far above humankind. At the same time, Bishop gives us a strong primary character to counter the Fae. Ari doesn’t play a typical fairy-enchanted woman; she wields her powers and stands strong against two worlds and their conflicting beliefs.

The Pillars of the World is a satisfying tale of magic and myth. With winter closing in, this book will keep you company on a cold evening.