The Temple of Doubt
Author: Anne Boles Levy
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Disclosure: A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.
This 307-page novel introduces a new Young Adult (ages 12-up; grades 6-up) fantasy series that is fascinating but superficially bleak and depressing. However, it features the overriding virtue of a strong teenage female protagonist who never gives up, in a world where women are treated like dirt.
Kuldor is obviously a fantasy world. It has three moons, human share it with the intelligent reptilian Geks, there is an introductory map that is not Earth’s geography, and it has a totally different human culture. The latter is both positive and negative; it is richly developed, but is oppressively harsh and male-dominated, to the point of constantly seeming about to overwhelm Hadara, the 15/16-year-old protagonist.
Hadara is the eldest daughter of her Babba (father), the Chef Port Inspector of the tropical city of Port Sapphire. Kuldor has a primitive male-centric human society dominated by a cruel religion centered around the god Nihil, whose priesthood practice human sacrifices. Hadara’s Babba and Mami are as protective as they can be toward her and her two sisters, which isn’t much since her society is based on a when-in-doubt-imprison-or-execute system, with all commoners encouraged to inform on any unorthodoxy. Hadara has the additional disadvantages of a reputation of not being devoted enough – she Asks Questions instead of blindly accepting religious doctrine like her “good” sister Amaniel – and of following her Mami in the frowned-upon gathering of forest and swamp plants to make herbal medicines, instead of praying to Nihil as the approved cure of all illnesses.
When a falling star appears to have landed in the swamps near Port Sapphire, it brings two Azwans (high priests) of Nihil from the far-off Temple of Doubt, along with an army of Feroxi temple soldiers. Their primary goal is to find the fallen star and the demon whom they are sure brought it to Kuldor; but while they are in Port Sapphire, they subject the city to a search for unorthodoxy. This means a reign of terror, where the least that happens is that the soldiers trash all homes while looking for anything unorthodox, and including rapes and executions. Hadara’s father’s superior is killed, and her reputation brings her under dangerous special scrutiny.
Amidst this, Hadara experiences her first love affair, while trying to personally deflect the soldiers and the Azwans, to keep her whole family safe, and to keep all of Port Sapphire safe when the Azwans’ arrogant invasion of a Gek community threatens to bring a reptile army of retaliation against all humans. And just when it appears that Hadara has succeeded, there are signs that the fallen star may have really brought a demon to Kuldor – and it may be possessing Hadara.
“The Temple of Doubt” (hardcover $16.99, Kindle $10.98) is a taut and suspenseful fantasy thriller, with a teenage protagonist who is unsure of herself and makes mistakes, but successfully survives all challenges – so far. This first novel closes with a satisfactory ending, which is followed by Chapter 1 of Hadara’s further adventures, “The Well of Prayers”, coming in Spring 2016. Sky Pony Press is the juvenile/Young Adult imprint of Skyhorse Publishing.