Temple of a Thousand Faces

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In his international bestseller Beneath a Marble Sky, John Shors wrote about the ancient passion, beauty, and brilliance that inspired the building of the Taj Mahal. Now with Temple of a Thousand Faces, he brings to life the legendary temple of Angkor Wat, an unrivaled marvel of ornately carved towers and stone statues. There, in a story set nearly a thousand years ago, an empire is lost, a royal love is tested, and heroism is reborn.


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Temple of a Thousand Faces

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In his international bestseller Beneath a Marble Sky, John Shors wrote about the ancient passion, beauty, and brilliance that inspired the building of the Taj Mahal. Now with Temple of a Thousand Faces, he brings to life the legendary temple of Angkor Wat, an unrivaled marvel of ornately carved towers and stone statues. There, in a story set nearly a thousand years ago, an empire is lost, a royal love is tested, and heroism is reborn.

When his land is taken by force, Prince Jayavar of the Khmer people narrowly escapes death at the hands of the conquering Cham king, Indravarman. Exiled from their homeland, he and his mystical wife Ajadevi set up a secret camp in the jungle with the intention of amassing an army bold enough to reclaim their kingdom and free their people. Meanwhile, Indravarman rules with an iron fist, pitting even his most trusted men against each other and quashing any hint of rebellion.

Moving from a poor fisherman's family whose sons find the courage to take up arms against their oppressors, to a beautiful bride who becomes a prize of war, to an ambitious warrior whose allegiance is torn—Temple of a Thousand Faces is an unforgettable saga of love, betrayal, and survival at any cost.


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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"The river was red. The red of both birth and death." Thus begins the prophecy of Ajadevi, visionary and queen to Jayavar, in Shors's thousand year-old dive into the Indochinese past, one unfamiliar to most Westerners. The Khmer people, under the leadership of their heroic royals, are struggling to regain the temple complex of Angkor Wat, the center of their culture, from the invading Chams. Predictably structured with the requisite romance budding across enemy lines, the novel reads quickly and is populated by a host of archetypal characters: a brave fishing family, beautiful upper class women, warriors, insurgents, slaves, and concubines. Shors (Beneath a Marble Sky) simplified names as he fleshed out a history of which few accounts survive; thus, his use of language makes the characters our contemporaries, however, as historical fiction, the cultural details feel shallow, limited to clothing and some sketched views of the temples. Refreshingly, strong Khmer women carry the novel forward; offering a welcome change of perspective on the epic tradition. It's said that there are only two stories in the world-a man goes on a journey and a stranger comes to town; here, Shors gives us both.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher
"An epic, extraordinary novel about love, beauty, and war, Temple of a Thousand Faces is sure to please."—Sandra Gulland, bestselling author of Mistress of the Sun

"[A] master storyteller..."—Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club

"John Shors has made himself a reputation for recreating exotic landscapes that surround heartwarming stories with captivating details."—BookPage

Kirkus Reviews
Shors' (Cross Currents, 2011, etc.) latest, set in 12th-century Cambodia. The plot centers on the efforts of Khmer Prince Jayavar and his favorite wife, Ajadevi, who've been forced to flee to the jungle following a bloody invasion of Angkor by barbaric King Indravarman of the Chams. Seeking to restore his people to their rightful place, Jayavar plans a counterattack and amasses thousands of troops, including Siamese mercenaries, to oppose the even larger Cham contingent. Among his followers are a simple fisherman and his family and a pair of young lovers. Asal is a favored advisor of the Cham king until he falls for Voisanne, a beautiful Khmer captive who helps change his perspective about war and killing and reminds him of his own heartbreak when he was younger. Facing certain torture and death, they flee Indravarman's stronghold to assist Prince Jayavar. Shors infuses the story with fascinating information about the ancient temple of Angkor Wat and Buddhist and Hindu cultures, but he often loses focus--and the interest of the reader--by deviating from the plot and providing entirely too much detail. The characters, who initially are appealing, begin to lose their luster long before the final battle between the Khmers and the Chams. The action comes to a standstill as the lovers engage in incessant declarations of love and meandering philosophical conversations; Indravarman's repetitive acts of brutality soon become tedious rather than shocking; and the continuous whining by Vibol, the fisherman's son, gets old, especially since his parents spend much of the book worrying about his self-esteem. An ambitious attempt, but it falls short of its mark.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451239174
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/5/2013
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 362,548
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

John Shors

John Shors is an international bestselling author whose work has been translated into twenty-six languages.


Published in 2004, John Shors' debut novel, Beneath a Marble Sky, was a major hit with critics from the start. An ambitious romance chronicling the lives of Emperor Shah Jahan the creator of the Taj Mahal, the wife for whom he built the legendary palace, and their daughter who falls in love with its architect, Beneath a Marble Sky was hailed as a major debut by publications ranging from the Des Moines Register to the India Post. Still, Shors' labor of love was not exactly soaring off of bookstore shelves. That's when the young author devised a radical, and radically personal, method of generating the kind of sales Beneath a Marble Sky deserved.

"I came up with the idea of putting the letter in the back of the paper back, with my e-mail address, and inviting book clubs to invite me to their evenings," Shors told CBS News. Soon enough, Shors was receiving scores of requests to visit local book clubs and speak about his novel. He also discovered that sales of Beneath a Marble Sky were on the rise. By November of 2006, Shors had visited over 200 clubs and was booked for many more through 2008.

Such ambition may be unusual in the world of publishing, but it is hardly new to Shors. Prior to penning Beneath a Marble Sky, he had traveled to Asia after years of studying creating writing and English at Colorado College. For three years, he taught English in Kyoto, Japan, but never able to remain still for long, he decided to exit his teaching post to backpack across the continent. Shors tramped through ten countries and scaled the mythic Himalayas in Nepal, but it was a 1999 sojourn in India that really altered the path of his life. "Seeing the wonder of the Taj Mahal, and understanding that a man built it for his wife -- a woman he cherished above all else in life -- was uniquely inspiring," Shors confided to Washington Independent Writers.org. "Indian poets have been writing about this love story for centuries. And yet, not many people in the West know the tale. I realized that I had to tell it. Quite honestly, I was amazed and delighted to discover upon my return to America that no one in the West had ever fictionalized the story."

Words such as "vivid" and "colorful" have been used to describe the epic that Shors' visit to the Taj Mahal inspired. Beneath a Marble Sky follows the life of Shah Jahan as he has the palace built for Mumtaz Mahal and they raise a bright girl named Jahanara, who not only learns the ins and outs of political thought from her father but also inherits is sense of romance. She ultimately falls in love with Isa the architect in charge of constructing the Taj Mahal and a man she is forbidden to wed.

Now that Shors is on the road again (of course, this time he is traversing America rather than exotic Asia), Beneath a Marble Sky is steadily becoming as much of a hit with readers as it had been with critics since its publication. The novel went on to average sales of 1,000 copies a week. Although he has quite a full plate with his numerous book club obligations, he is still managing to find time to begin work on his second novel. Despite such a daunting schedule, the ever-energetic Shors is marching ahead with typical gusto, enthusing to CBS News: "I'm excited to do so."

Good To Know

Shortly after its publication, Beneath a Marble Sky fell into the hands of actor Eriq La Salle, former star of TV's E.R. and currently head of a production company called Humble Journey Films. Shors told Washington Independent Writers.org. that La Salle's company "is very serious about making Beneath a Marble Sky into a major movie. They are making great progress and I'm cautiously optimistic that they'll pull it off."

Beneath a Marble Sky is both a book about world culture and a book that encourages world culture in a very practical way. Shors has arranged to donate a portion of the sales of his novel to the Children's International Summer Villages (CISV) a nonprofit organization promoting cultural understanding among people around the globe.

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Shors:

"I've been lucky enough to travel to five continents and many countries."

"While I am a perfectionist when it comes to my writing (I edited Beneath a Marble Sky 56 times), I am a bit of a slob around the house."

"I cannot stand the feel of cotton balls, and our little girl constantly torments me by rubbing them against my skin."

"I'd like my readers to know that I sincerely and profoundly appreciate their support. The success of Beneath a Marble Sky has given me a great gift, and I hope to repay this gift by creating powerful novels for years to come. Additionally, if any reader has a particular question for me, I'll be delighted to answer her or his question. I can be reached at shors@aol.com and I'll happily write back to anyone who contacts me."

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    1. Hometown:
      Boulder, Colorado
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 4, 1969
    2. Place of Birth:
      Des Moines, Iowa
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, Colorado College, 1991
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 5, 2013

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    In 1177 in Angkor, Khmer (now Cambodia), Prince Jayavar and his

    In 1177 in Angkor, Khmer (now Cambodia), Prince Jayavar and his chief wife, Ajadevi, stand on a causeway gazing at the colossal multiterraced sandstone temple, its “five towers shaped like lotus buds” ascending in a tropical forest. Suddenly, after sailing up a Mekong River tributary, a large force from neighbouring Champa (central and south Vietnam) attacks Angkor. Following a fierce battle, Jayavar and Ajadevi are forced to flee into the jungle and hide at a secret location.Assisted by his vile henchman, Po Rame, King Indravarman of the Cham rules Khmer with terror and engages in a massive hunt for Jayavar. Indravarman also takes on a number of concubines, including a stunning Khmer beauty named Voisanne. As a reward for bravery, he gives Voisanne to Asal, one of his officers, and Asal is immediately smitten with her. After some intense encounters with the jealous Rame, Asal begins to question his allegiance to Indravarman. Meanwhile, while evading Indravarman’s warriors, Jayavar regroups his Khmer force and seeks assistance from the Siamese to recapture his kingdom.This novel differs somewhat from John Shors’ acclaimed Beneath a Marble Sky, which centered on the construction of the Taj Mahal. Here, while the equally impressive Angkor Wat temple features in the story, the plot deals primarily with the loves, betrayals, divided loyalties, and tales of survival that played a part in the struggle for reclaiming Khmer. Furthermore, Shors’ impressive cast of characters includes some ordinary people, members of a fishing family, which enlivens his settings. Although he notes in the preface that “through necessity I’ve created many elements of this novel,” it reads very authentically, but the mention of slaves in the Hindu/Buddhist community is jarring. Written in Shors’ enjoyable style, with an eye for details of Khmer flora and fauna, this novel is destined to be a blockbuster. Highly recommended.This review was first posted by Waheed Rabbani in the Historical Review Magazine, issue 63, February 2013.
    Waheed Rabbani is a historical fiction author whose novels are available at Barnes and Noble

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  • Posted May 4, 2013

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    TEMPLE OF A THOUSAND FACES by John Shors is an interesting histo

    TEMPLE OF A THOUSAND FACES by John Shors is an interesting historical fiction set in 1177. 12th century Angkor Wat is reflected in an epic tale of danger,revenge,hate,love,survival,heartbreak,tyranny,betrayal and romance. Prince Jayavar and Ajadevi find themselves on a quest to build an army,regain Jayavar's lands that was taken by force by, Indravarman,the Chams leader. A fascinating story with engaging characters. While, Mr. Shors is a wonderful storyteller,I could not quiet connect with the characters nor did I understand the language,even with the readers guide at the back. If you enjoy Cambodian culture,Southwest Asian history,you will enjoy "Temple of a Thousand Faces". Be warned it does have foul language throughout.Received for an honest review from the publisher.

    RATING: 3
    HEAT RATING: Hot: Detailed sex scenes,profanity or graphic violence *Due to foul language*
    REVIEWED BY: AprilR,(Courtesy of My Book Addicton and More)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2013



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  • Posted March 7, 2013

    Historical fiction is my favorite genre, yet I feel as if its be

    Historical fiction is my favorite genre, yet I feel as if its best writers always tend to focus on the events of Europe. John Shors is a notable exception. I very much enjoyed his first novel, Beneath a Marble Sky, which tells the story behind the creation of the Taj Mahal. His new novel, Tempe of a Thousand Faces, concerns the temple of Angkor Wat. Temple of a Thousand Faces is a wonderfully ambitious novel. It's a true saga, and carried me into an ancient and wondrous world. I was alongside his characters as they fled into the jungle, prayed at Angkor Wat, loved by the riverside, and battled against powerful foes. This is exactly my kind of story. Luckily for me, it is more than 500 pages long, so I got to escape for a long time! A wonderful, wonderful novel.

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  • Posted January 29, 2013

    I am a big fan of John Shors, and his latest novel, Temple of a

    I am a big fan of John Shors, and his latest novel, Temple of a Thousand Faces, is wonderful. This novel is set about a thousand years ago at the magnificent temple of Angkor Wat. If you enjoy rich, epic, exciting historical fiction, you'll love this novel. I certainly did.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2013

    The best historical fiction is that which brings another culture

    The best historical fiction is that which brings another culture, another time, back to vivid life. Temple of a Thousand Faces, in my opinion, does just that. This remarkable and fast-paced novel celebrates the legendary temple of Angkor Wat, and the people who brought it to  life and who protected it. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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