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Labyrinth Paperback – February 6, 2007
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Elegantly written...An action-packed adventure of modern conspiracy and medieval passion. (The Independent [UK])
About the Author
Kate Mosse is the author of the New York Times bestselling Labyrinth and Sepulchre and the Co-founder and Honorary Director of the prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction. She lives in England and France.
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I loved the way this book started, with naive young-for-her-age Alice Tanner volunteering at an archaeological dig in south-western France. Something draws her up the hillside. She finds an old buckle. Then there is a rumbling sound and a huge boulder moves aside to show a door in the rock.
Yes, I know this strains credulity, but the writing was so good, I bought it.
After this set-up, we move back into the past, from July 2005 to July 1209. Alice Tanner is now 17-year-old Alais Pelletier, the favorite daughter of a Bertrand Pelletier, steward to Viscount Trencavel, who holds court at Carcassonne.
Storm clouds are rumbling over this regions as a huge army of French barons and Catholic priests is sweeping south to stamp out the Cathar heresy and grab those southern lands. Alais and her family get caught up in the “ethnic cleansing” that follows, as the northern French lords impose their ways upon the south, and try to eradicate the culture.
As others have remarked, this story is too long. I agree. I found myself skipping large chunks of it towards the end. And I think the reason for that is because the author (perhaps in a rush to finish this book) allows her writing to become careless. For example, she puts large chunks of explanation into the mouth of Audric Baillard, which is boring for the reader to read. This is a pity, because the beginning of this book shows that Ms. Mosse can write compelling prose. Three stars.
The plot was annoyingly transparent and the characters were exasperatingly shallow and underdeveloped, but the overall story *does* tickle the imagination. It reminded me of the Druid saying "the songs of our ancestors are also the songs of our children." That said, beware of the whiplash that the frequent time shifts in this book can cause!
Two things I do appreciate are Ms. Mosse's research into the story of the Cathars and her appreciation of southern France.
As a once-fluent Francophile, I had no problems with the French terms used, nor did I have any problems with the L'Occitane dialect used. Of course, I have no problem even when I am completely unfamiliar with a language, as I use online dictionaries if I don't know a word....and I *do* love learning new words. Native English speakers can be so damn lazy! Come on people, learn a thing or two! I do agree with others who've panned the poorly-executed similes and metaphors! Ugh, I was disgusted with quite a few.
If you're looking for an easy, quick, read that is imaginative, this book might interest you. If you're looking for * literature*, don't bother with this novel: though it's partially a piece of historical fiction, it also reads like a trashy romance novel.