All Things are Lights (A Review)January 24, 2008
Set against the backdrop of two crusades, Roland struggles with two loves. Diane, who must refuse him for to sin after receiving the ultimate sacrament of the Cathar meant eternal damnation; and Nicolette, wife of Amalric his sworn enemy and chief instigator for the Crusade against the Cathar faith…
So that was what the love story part in the novel was about, and I must say that I didn’t pick the book because of it. I read it for the background setting, and I almost dropped it when the first few pages revealed that Love was the primary theme.
Yet author Robert Shea weaved this book magnificently. It was totally gripping, and the backdrop naturally enfolded the plot. Truth be told, I had only one cheesy moment even though page after page of it was screaming romance. The intricacies of religious clashes held my full attention. It had been so long since such writing affected me.
Four religions clash in the book. Catholicism, which teaches love in the bonds of marriage and clerical celibacy but whose followers and priests disobey. Catharism, which teaches spiritual love but considers the body and the material world as evil. Islam; which tolerates harems and polygamy while at the same time advocating restraint, for the forbidden would be allowable pleasures in Paradise. L’amour courtois, the Religion of Love, which ignores all rules for Love’s sake.
Continuing with the tradition of romance novels, Love triumphs in this book. Yet it is hard won and bought with innumerable deaths for the sake of religion. Cathars are burnt by Catholic inquisitors. Captured crusaders are given the choice to convert or die by Muslim captors. Innocents die as pawns, fit only for sacrifice.
It is a harsh book, but it is one worth reading.
PS After reading the book, I would never look at a priest blessing with the sign of the cross the same way again. People saw it is the sign of oppression and treachery, and by it millions were killed. In a way, I sympathize with the Cathars not because my Protestant predecessors suffered under the same damned Inquisition, but because I believe that freedom of religion and conscience must be honored by every state.