What’s it all about?:
Bringing sixteenth-century Languedoc vividly to life, Kate Mosse’s The Burning Chambers is a gripping story of love and betrayal, mysteries and secrets; of war and adventure, conspiracies and divided loyalties . . .
Carcassonne 1562: Nineteen-year-old Minou Joubert receives an anonymous letter at her father’s bookshop. Sealed with a distinctive family crest, it contains just five words: SHE KNOWS THAT YOU LIVE.
But before Minou can decipher the mysterious message, a chance encounter with a young Huguenot convert, Piet Reydon, changes her destiny forever. For Piet has a dangerous mission of his own, and he will need Minou’s help if he is to get out of La Cité alive.
Toulouse: As the religious divide deepens in the Midi, and old friends become enemies, Minou and Piet both find themselves trapped in Toulouse, facing new dangers as sectarian tensions ignite across the city, the battle-lines are drawn in blood and the conspiracy darkens further.
Meanwhile, as a long-hidden document threatens to resurface, the mistress of Puivert is obsessed with uncovering its secret and strengthening her power . . .
What did I think?:
When this book first came out, I have to admit, I hesitated. I love Kate Mosse’s writing when she turns her hand to the Gothic i.e. The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales which I’m currently reading for my Short Stories Challenge and her novel, The Taxidermist’s Daughter. However, when I read the first in her Languedoc series Labyrinth, years and years ago, I was slightly underwhelmed and haven’t completed the series which is a shame as I’m usually quick to devour historical fiction. The size of this novel might also be quite intimidating to those who fancy a quick read – at 603 pages in my Kindle edition, it’s a book that may take you a fair while to digest, depending on how fast you read and how invested you are in the story. When I saw Richard and Judy put it on their Spring Book Club list here in the UK and as I enjoy following that list on a seasonal basis, I was keen to give the author’s historical fiction another bash.
Kate Mosse, author of The Burning Chambers.
Straight off the mark I must stress that Kate Mosse has a clear talent for setting a scene. The reader is dropped into 16th Century France where the political and religious tensions between the Huguenot and Catholic religions is explored intricately, which has startling consequences for our main character, Minou and her family as an old secret about their ancestors is unearthed. The small towns in France at this period of time are vividly brought to life through the author’s eyes and with the use of a likeable, strong female lead. There is certainly enough mystery and intrigue to keep the reader interested and turning the pages as the puzzle comes together and there are definite moments of excitement, particularly near the end where I found myself much more invested in the story.
The French medieval city of Carcassonne, the setting for The Burning Chambers.
With all these amazing attributes to the narrative, I’m wondering why I’m struggling to make it clear how I felt about this novel? The fact is – it is highly enjoyable with great characterisation (particularly Minou and some of the more villainous individuals) and boasts a fascinating plot which is not difficult or laborious to read. Indeed, even though the novel is lengthy, it didn’t feel like I was aching to finish it either which is always a bonus. It’s hard to describe but I think it was purely a personal disconnect for me with the narrative in general. I found that whilst I liked Minou and was curious about her family history, I didn’t care enough about what happened to her. Perhaps the only way I can explain myself is that I found the novel perfectly pleasant but it didn’t light a fire within me? I hope that makes sense!
I find it really strange how I seem to have completely connected with the author’s fiction when she writes with a Gothic slant and twice now, I’ve felt less enamoured regarding her historical/medieval work. Her character development is always terrific, the element of mystery superb and as I mentioned earlier, the way she sets a scene second to none, making it quite clear the amount of research she has carried out to take the reader so expertly to that particular period of time. I strongly believe I must be in the minority with my opinion as I’ve already seen some overwhelmingly positive reviews for The Burning Chambers on Goodreads and I would still urge people to read this for all the reasons I’ve mentioned above. Saying that, I’d be interested to know if you’ve read this or any of Kate Mosse’s other work and what your opinions were?
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):