A series has just ended over on my other blog, The Oddest Inkling, in which several readers wrote their responses to The Place of the Lion. Most of these readers were shocked by this book. It's extremely startling! I won't spoil or even summarize it here; please go and read the posts.
First, the book is visually gorgeous. There are descriptions of an enormous golden lion, a humongous multi-colored butterfly, a fire that burns in the shape of a phoenix and does not consume, a visionary mystic soaring in his mind's eye like a eagle.
Second, the events of the book are shocking; when I first read it, Williams kept smacking me upside the head with philosophical surprises. I know I'm wired differently than the average Jane (I guess): I get my kicks from the appearance of Platonic forms. (OK, I also get kicks from the appearance of, say, Benedict Cumberbatch—but that's a different post!). When a gigantic lion appeared in the sunset and turned out to be the Platonic form of strength, a shiver of heaven ran through me, lifting me into realms of glory.
Third, the spiritual lesson was hard and painful, but (perhaps therefore) also glorious. Every time I reread it, I am convicted. One of the main characters is a woman trying to be a scholar, and she has turned her studies into a kind of dry idolatry. I do that. So Williams terrifies me.
Finally, the ending soars up into heights of sweet desire. But I won't spoil it. Read it!