I’m sure I’ve mentioned previously that I enjoy reading books set in areas I travel to and also that, when I visited Carcassonne, I read Labyrinth by Kate Mosse as part of my exploration of the Cathar history of the region. I really enjoyed Mosse’s take on this period of extreme religious conflict (combined with a bit of romance and lots of adventure) so I was interested to see that she had returned to that part of France with her latest novel.
Many things about this novel seem familiar after reading Labyrinth – the setting, the ongoing wars of religion, there is even a character called Alis – but it is also a thrilling story in its own right. Minou Joubert live in Carcassonne with her father, a bookseller who deals with books from all sides of the religious divides, and her younger siblings. Apart from the death of her mother her life has been happy enough but things are becoming difficult: her father has changed, refusing to leave the house and leaving Minou to deal with the shop, the ongoing wars of religion between the Catholic establishment and French protestants, known as Huguenots, are coming closer to the city and she receives a mysterious letter saying just ‘She knows that you live’. When she meets Piet Reydon, a young Huguenot on a mysterious mission, both their lives become more complicated. Their lives begin to intertwine with each other’s and with that of Valentin, a priest who was once a close friend of Piet’s, and Blanche, the chatelaine of Puivert. Danger follows them from Carcassonne, to Toulouse and, finally, to Puivert itself where many questions about Minou’s past are answered.
Kate Mosse has, once again, given us a fascinating insight into the past – I’d heard of the Huguenots but knew very little beyond the fact they were protestants – combined with an exciting story blending romance and adventure. Her historical research is meticulous and her storytelling gripping, her female characters are strong (I particularly liked some of the supporting cast – Alis, the younger sister, Madame Boussay and Blanche de Bruyère) and I’m looking forward to seeing how the story moves on as promised to Amsterdam and South Africa in the rest of the trilogy. Of course, I may need a return visit to the Midi, the Netherlands or even a first trip to Franschhoek to read them…