Have you ever felt the urge to stand high up on a mountain, face a night of freezing cold, sleet and snow all the while staring heroically out into the distance? No? Well you obviously haven’t read Rora then.
by James Byron Huggins
I can remember when I first read this. The copy in my possession isn’t actually mine – it is my elder brother’s. I’m, er, looking after it for him.
I can recall reading this on the way home – by the light of the street lights, catching a sentence here, a paragraph there. I loved it. I hadn’t read anything like it before.
But first … the description:
The winds from the valley known as Pelice carried an ominous tale of sorrow and destruction. The army of the black-robed Inquisitors had laid seige to the defenseless inhabitants of the valley, destroying churches and killing those who refused to renounce their faith. Yet high on a granite mountain above the land that forms the border between Italy and France stood Joshua Gianavel—one man who held the fate of his people in his
hands. In the valley below Europe’s mightiest army gathered to lay siege to his people. He would not allow the same desolation to reach his home and people in the valley of Rora. With lionlike courage he waged warfare against the Inquisitors with a brilliance the world had never seen.
Based upon the true story of the historic stand of the Waldenses in 1655, Rora is a spellbinding tale of a legendary hero, of international intrigue and subterfuge, of cloak-and-dagger tactics, of a faith that refused to die.
What I thought then …
Rora was awesome, there was no doubt about it. The characters, oh the characters. They stayed with me – most prominently the warlord Pianessa and the courageous Joshua Gianavel, followed by the (very) evil Incomel, the young ruler Charles Emmanuel II, the noble Sir Morland and so many, many more – long after the book was closed.
It was bloody and brutal. Tender and bittersweet. Haunting. Full of shadowed halls and open battlefields.
Spies and warriors, thieves and priests, poets and kings, all were written on its pages. It was a sweeping tale full of opposites – bravery and fear, right and wrong, truth and lies. There was both sorrow and hope, nobility and greed.
I was enthralled by it – by this story that was about being prepared to stand up for what you believe to be right – no matter what the consequences were.
I started a story. “The Valley” I entitled it, and it began with a girl on a hill overlooking the land of her birth (the girl has since been exchanged for a boy, but that was a later addition). There was a Sir Morland character and persecution and hidden doors and all sorts of very cool things [EDIT: not the persecution, that wasn’t cool. The hidden doors and secrets, however, were].
I was inspired by Rora, greatly so, and perhaps the story started off like a mirror to it, however, it soon spiraled away as I created my own characters – one of which is waiting in the wings to be used in another story.
Rora taught me to write on a greater, more sweeping scale than I had thought to before.
What I think now …
I still love Rora, but recently I’ve been rereading it and have found some characters to be unnaturally larger than life (is it really possible to notice every single thing that goes on around you? I tried to do it, but found myself strangely deficient in this awesome skill. I’ve begun to wonder if the skill is based in reality, I’m looking at you, Pianessa).
It is funny, but rereading a book after a long period of time (and many different books read in-between) shines a different light to it. Almost like my soft-toy dog – Fudge. He was huge, honestly – the largest soft-toy dog you’ve ever seen. Until, that is, he was put up in the loft and came down a couple of years later.
Goodness gracious, but the loft had shrunk him!
Most Favoured Quote:
This one has stayed with ever since I first read it years ago:
What chains can hold belongs to a man. The rest is God’s.
[also, brief note – the letter Gianavel sends to Pianessa? Yes, that is the actual one that the real life Gianavel actually sent. Wow.]
Want to see for yourself if the characters are unnaturally larger than life? Or maybe you just want a story about a real-life story to read. You can purchase the kindle version here.