Name: The Burning Chambers
Author: Kate Mosse
Number of Pages: 608 (Hardback)
Published: May 3rd 2018 by Mantle
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 . . . – from Goodreads
Having previously enjoyed the Languedoc trilogy by Kate Mosse I was very much looking forward to starting The Burning Chambers.
Once again the immersive, somehow magical and romantic setting of Carcassonne takes centre stage for this story. Toulouse is the other main location for the action. Mosse writes in such a vivid way that I almost feel as though I’ve walked the streets of these cities alongside the characters of her novels. It is atmospheric and charming, although there’s danger and conflict disturbing this idyllic setting as the story is set during the Wars of Religion.
Whereas previous novels have featured a dual timeline, after an intriguing prologue set in the 1800s The Burning Chambers sets us firmly with 16th Century France, where conflict between Catholics and Huguenots is breaking out and there is danger and treachery as everyone could potentially be passing information to the opposing side.
The Burning Chambers is a highly readable combination of an enduring mystery, family secrets passed from one generation to the next, murder, betrayal and vicious conflict. There were scenes during the battle which reminded me of Les Mis, as the citizens built barricades to defend their ground.
Added to this, there is also love, for family, friends, and new romantic love against the odds, as the characters come from completely opposing backgrounds.
At the heart of the story are Minou and Piet.
Minou lives in Carcassonne with her family. She cares for her younger siblings and her ailing father, who is in decline but won’t tell his daughter what is wrong. She runs the family bookshop, where she receives a brief anonymous note, saying only ’she knows that you live’. Unable to make sense of the message, Minou goes about her daily life. She is a strong character, and I liked her from the beginning.
Piet is a Huguenot, fighting for his beliefs and putting himself in danger to further his cause as he tries to sell on an ancient relic in order to secure funds. He finds himself in a dangerous situation, where friends may actually be enemies, and trusting people could cost his life, and then he meets Minou.
Minou and Piet are drawn to each other form the outset, and their paths cross again in Toulouse. Their story is interwoven with extracts from the viewpoint of an unknown woman who is ruthless and determined to achieve her aims of securing her estate and her future, even if that means committing murder to ensure her own survival.
It’s an intriguing mystery, with the gradual revelation of how this woman ties in with the rest of the narrative, who she is after, and why.
The pace really picks up as the strands of this tale pull together, and more than one life is in danger towards the end, which found me tearing through the last 100 or so pages because I had to know who would survive.
The Burning Chambers is a great start to a new series, and I enjoyed this entertaining, sprawling tale with it’s atmospheric setting and engaging characters. More please!