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The Lady Agnès Mystery - Volume 1: The Season of the Beast and The Breath of the Rose Paperback – November 10, 2015
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About the Author
Lorenza Garcia: Lorenza Garcia translates from French and Spanish. She lives in London.
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Agnes is a very strong woman. She fights for her independence from her half-brother so she can keep her dowry. Throughout the Inquisition, she faces a lot of trials that make her a stronger woman. She does not bow down to her Inquisitors. Instead, she uses her intelligence and outsmarts them. Her intelligence and stubbornness infuriates her inquisitors because she is a thorn in their side. She was supposed to be broken and compliant, but instead she is not. She never breaks her will. She does face some sadness, but she never gives up hope or her will to survive.
Overall, this book is about a woman’s determination and strength as she faces her obstacles. The message of the book is that there is hope. I did find the story to be slow-paced for it was not until halfway through the book did it pick up. As for the mystery, it is still unsolved and it ends in a cliffhanger. Still, I found Agnes’s trials during the French Inquisition to be fascinating enough to where I really did not care about the mystery. Her trial was raw, poignant, painful, and sad. When she survived, it was very triumphant. I am interested in reading the next book in the series. I would like to read more about Agnes’s story and maybe the murder mystery will be resolved. I recommend this book to anyone interested in mysteries, historical fiction, and the French Inquisition.
(Note: I read an ARC copy of this novel in courtesy of Netgalley.)
As a lover of historical fiction, mystery, and French literature, it’s high time for me to present to you the latest series by Andrea Japp, the famous crime writer, available now in English: The Lady Agnès Mystery. The series is made of 4 books, published separately in French. For some reason, Gallic Books has chosen to publish the 4 books in 2 volumes. I’ll present to you volume 2 at the beginning of January 2016, shortly before its US release date. So two thick volumes with a total of over 1,000 pages, but believe me, that’s worth it! See now why.
The book can be seen challenging at times, but if you are used to a large cast of characters and places, you will really enjoy it.
It covers the years 1304-1305, with a couple of flash backs to the 1290s. This is a difficult time in France, with a fierce struggle between King Philip IV (the Fair) and the Church. The Knights (Templars and Hospitallers) are involved, and it’s the dreadful period of the Inquisition!
It is mostly set in the Perche region.
But many other places are involved, so let me recapitulate these places to give you an idea:
in the Perche region:
– Souarcy (Lady Agnès’s manoir)
– Clairets Abbey, and its forest (forests are very important in this book, with key events happening in them)
– Authon-du-Perche, and the nearby forest of Béthonvilliers
– Arville, a major Templar commandery, and the forest of Montoubleau. Click on the link to see pictures of what’s left of it today.
– the château of Larnay
– Alençon, with its Inquisition headquarters
elsewhere in France:
– Carcassonne (in the south of France)
Book 1 goes from May-September 1304.
Agnès is 25, her daughter Mathilde 11. She has also taken in her household the young Clément, now 10, whose mother (Agnès’s former maid) died. Agnès’s husband also died. She’s rather poor and has to fight against her half-brother Eudes de Larnay’s special attention, and the new maid he has sent to her, actually to spy on her.
Nearby is the abbey of Clairets, with its abbess Éleusie (based maybe on its famous abbess Marie de Thin or the foundress Mathilde). Like Mathilde, Éleusie is quite a scholar. She has a secret library, hiding especially a very secret and dangerous document. Strange murders start multiplying in the forest around the abbey. It seems messengers with letters for the abbess are killed before being able to finish their mission.
And then, death gets even closer when some sisters get poisoned. Could the poisoner be one of the sisters? But which one? And why? Could it be because of this secret document? What could it contain?
We discover what’s at stake is not a mere local event. Something major is going on, a sort of struggle between good and evil, and some characters are on a special quest for light. But they will have to be able to recognize who’s for them or against them. Not easy when there’s so much going on between representatives of secular and Church powers, and when you can do quite a bit of damage with money: get rid of some cumbersome pope maybe, or even pay to get people delivered to the Inquisition and its horrible torturers…
Agnès herself will be dragged to the Inquisition headquarters – that’s the content of Book 2, covering September 1304-December 1305. Why? Who is she really?
These are just a few of the questions you will face, and be prepared not to have all the answers yet even after 600 pages. You will have to read Books 3 and 4 in volume 2 as well to understand really what this is all about.
Presented as a historical mystery, I have to admit I found it a bit frustrating to have few answers after so many pages. But they are very well written, spooky at times, with many mysterious hooded figures, a secret library, old mysterious manuscripts, runes, coded messages. You can’t but love that!
It was a delight besides to plunge into the history of the time. Considered as a historical novel then, the novel is fabulous, conveying so well the struggle between kings and papacy; between Philip IV (and the famous Nogaret, the keeper of the seal, also present in the classic historical fiction series by Maurice Druon on the same period) and the Templars, whom he basically wanted to annihilate to get to their massive wealth and curve their influences; and the whole movement of the Inquisition.
The characters are well evoked, the good and the bad, the poor and those corrupted with money. Women are definitely described as tough and ready to fight! There’s even a skilled swords-woman.
You really feel like joining on the mysterious quest at stake and help sympathetic characters in danger. Even if you don’t know how vast the quest is.
There are some powerful Gothic and gruesome descriptions, for instance of the Inquisition headquarters in Alençon. And good historic passages, for instance of the Templar Arville commandery. I also enjoyed the details on plants and herbs, whether to heal or to kill!
During a sensitive time in history, Agnes has lost her husband but she is determined to be independent and not let her half-brother take everything from her. But a strong, independent woman is not a normal occurrence, especially one with a prophecy about her. So the Inquisition steps up and tries to break her.
I loved how no matter what Agnes keep fighting. The Inquisition is so horrible with the torture and trying everything to make her give up but no matter what Agnes keeps fighting. There is a lot of research done into the time period which sucked me right into the story. Andrea Japp is also a forensic scientist and you can see that woven into the story.
I did feel that the story took a while to get going but it was a good story. Although the mystery is not really solved it does lead into volume 2. I am very curious to see what happens in the next book regarding who the killer is and what how the prophecy is going to be fulfilled.
I received The Lady Agnes Mystery Volume 1 for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.