Monday, October 30, 2017

A Vision of Light by Judith Merkle Riley (1988)

When did I first read Judith Merkle Riley's A Vision of Light?  It had to have been back in college (I graduated high school in 1988), and I'm going to hazard a guess I checked it out from a public library (which one, I will never now know).  I probably checked it out because of the incredible, shining vision of light original cover, which is almost like an icon:  a good cover for a character like Margaret.  I'm nothing but a sucker for a good cover.  Incidentally, the new cover for this book is boring as f.  The cover pictured below doesn't glow like my personal copy at home!

When did I last read this book?  I'm going to guess ten years ago, at least.  But it continues to enchant.  Riley creates such incredibly memorable characters, who act, think and feel like real people, not medieval paper dolls.  The rich, brightly colored setting she creates for these characters to inhabit is often surprising and always wonderful.  Calling the medieval historical novel she's written a medieval tapestry is trite covered with mildew - but perhaps I can get away with an illuminated manuscript?  She writes (in gold ink) what's going on in the margins and in the middle of the O's and P's and under the A's. 

SPOILER...   There is a homosexual character who comes to a bad end, who is evil on top of that - I think if Riley (RIP) were writing today, she'd definitely get called out for having a character like this.  It definitely left a sour taste in my mouth that I don't remember having the last time or two I read this book.  However, gay men can be creepy villains too - having every gay in every book be a superhero is beyond the pale.

A Vision of Light (Margaret of Ashbury, #1)A Vision of Light by Judith Merkle Riley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Calling this historical fiction novel a medieval tapestry would be trite, covered with mildew, clearly cliched, hokier than the hokey-pokey -but perhaps I can get away with illuminated manuscript, written in gold ink? Riley fills in all the illumined details along the margins, in the Os and Ps, under the As, sliding down the Ws and Vs. Those details include a rich, multi-colored stained glass setting, and memorable, soundly written living breathing characters that you soon grow to love (or hate, as the case may be). I've read this book several times, and each time I come away enchanted - and even though I know the ending already, I'm still biting my nails several times for Margaret's (unfair) plight. Spiritual, humorous, feminist. Pair this with Catherine, Called Birdy for a medieval faire.


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