Thurii is a young man with a terrible disability: he is the only person in his world who can see. This should make him a savant, but in a society where there is no concept of visual sight, and only certain parts of the closed city are lit, Thurii is seen as handicapped – his sight meaning he neglected his lessons in things like touch-sensitivity and echolocation, which leaves him fumbling around in the dark, blinder than anyone else in the world.
The most amazing thing in this book was the elaborateness of the world Jetty has created. When I was first told about The Blessings of Stefan, I thought: “Okay, they’re all blind, so there’ll be a lot of that scene in Mask where the guy gives the girl something hot and says ‘this is red’ and so forth…” Nothing so clichéd. Jetty has clearly put a staggering amount of thought into depicting a society where not only are the inhabitants blind, but they don’t know they’re blind, because there is simply no concept that eyes are for anything other than crying.
The actual story involves Thurii falling in love with a young woman who occupies a prominent position in the church, and the two becoming pawns in the machinations of a religious bureaucrat who wants to impose a martial Inquisition upon society.
The annoying thing about the book is that, as the situation currently stands, there may not be any more like it. Jetty self-published The Blessings of Stefan, and it failed to find a place in the market. I wouldn’t have heard of it if I didn’t have coffee every week with Jetty’s son, who passed me a copy. This is sad, as it really is the single best-thought-out fantasy environ I’ve come across in my many years of reading such things.
In the (remarkably unlikely) event that you get to read this book, I highly recommend it.