Much of my last week has been consumed by Veiled at Midnight, the next book WhiteFire will put out--and the last one this year, other than my A Soft Breath of Wind. I know I already touched briefly on this in my Word of the Week post, but it bears talking about more. Because oh my goodness. This book...
In the first book in Christine Lindsay's Twilight of the British Raj series, I was introduced to India, with all its vastness, its crowds, its spices and colors and dizzying politics. I got a taste of the British Raj (rule) and what it meant to the Indians, and I met a villain who kept the characters on their toes. In the second book, I learned more about the struggle between the Sikhs, the Muslims, the Hindus, and the minority of Christians. About the sweeping epidemics and the lingering effects of World War I.
In this book, I saw a nation destroyed by its cry for independence. I saw neighbor turn on neighbor because of their religion, places of peace become fields of battle. The author, in her historical note, says that low estimates of the number of civilians killed in the riots surrounding the Partition that separated India and Pakistan was 20,000. High estimates are close to 1,000,000.
This is not a happy backdrop. It's tragic, it's suffocating, and it's...true.
So why do I love the book? For the same reason I usually love a book. Because somehow there's hope amidst the tragedy. Somehow there's the power of love--our love for each other and Christ's love for us--overcoming, here and there, the power of hate. Somehow the characters find their true identities, their true worth, their true strength, when the streets are flowing red with blood.
That's one of the themes of the book, actually. Red. Dassah, our Indian heroine, wanted a red sari for her wedding, because red is the color of joy. But as violence took over her land, red became associated with blood instead. The color of violence, of death, of tragedy. But then, eventually, another thought occurs. Red is also the color of Another's blood that was shed, and shed to save us.
I didn't know much about the Partition before I read Veiled at Midnight, but wow, did I learn a lot--in that organic way that has always been why I love historical fiction. I got to meet some historical figures, and I got to view the riots through many sets of eyes, all with different views but a shared love for India, a shared pain at her suffering.
Best-selling author MaryLu Tyndall had the right of it when she said, "Rarely do I find a book that touches my soul in such a deep place." This one's going to stick with me for a long, long time.