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I have absolutely no religious inclination whatsoever but it just so happened that my taking a week off work to recharge and get on top of "life stuff" coincided with the Easter weekend recently. Of course, every holiday from work must commence with a healthy period of Doing Stuff All and it was during this let-down phase of my break that Mr Rarr and I saw a television advert for a feature that Channel 4 were running over the Easter weekend, an adaptation of Labyrinth, a book by Kate Mosse.
***WHAT, THAT ONE?***
Er, no. La Moss has not grown a brain cell (they weigh far too much) and embarked upon a quest for literary greatness. This is Kate MossE.
Anyway, a puzzled look took up residence upon the face of Mr Rarr and eventually he got up from the sofa, toddled over to the heap of books in the corner of the living room (which had been sat there resolutely determined not to pack themselves away somewhere neatly ever since he moved in properly before Christmas!) and returned triumphant. The title had twigged a memory and it turned out that he had a copy of the book itself, something that had helped him while away the time whilst on military duty in some far-flung desert base with nothing in particular to do a few years back.
I'd been moaning about not having a decent new book to read for ages (and couldn't submit myself to another potential Koontz disappointment so soon after the last) and here was my beloved wafting what looked like a hefty tome in my face, telling of its goodness. What wasn't to like?
Oh, and the argument "honestly, it's not as crap as Dan Brown, I promise" really did help.
***OH GOD, ITS ONE OF THOSE?***
Yes, its another take on the concept of a grail and the true meaning of religion. If that instantly turns you off, look away now. However, if you have left it about eight years since being mentally offended and scarred by the sheer appallingness that is the writing talents of Dan Brown on the subject and thus consider yourself sufficiently healed to embark, tentatively and poised at any point to suddenly stop reading and lob the offending tome across the room into the bin, upon another such reading experience, then I think you might like this. As promised by my good man, this really is far superior to Dan Brown's god-awful (no pun intended) Da Vinci Code, and after reading the first few chapters I was soon hooked despite my own reservations. Personally I couldn't give a stuff on a few topics relating to the concept of a grail, such as a) whether its real or not, b) where the heck it is and c) who wants to have a big argument about it. But I do like a good read and very soon I knew I was going to have to finish this hefty account. Whilst my attempts to finish it all in time to watch the adaptation failed (seriously, there's a lot of it, and frankly after I saw the first two hour segment of the adaptation I decided it was so naff in comparison to the book itself that I didn't bother with the second half), it did take over a large chunk of my holiday, with one of my infamous work-induced "days where all I can manage is crashing out and doing nothing" spent entirely ploughing through this novel.
So here's an account of my thoughts - whilst I always try to avoid notable spoilers, please note that I will need to give some account of the plot in order to review it, I hope you forgive me and don't think I have given away too much!
This Kate Mosse is an English author and previously worked in publishing. She had some success as a writer before the publication of Labyrinth but this was without doubt the book that truly launched her career and presumably, with the intellectual heavyweights that are Richard and Judy firmly at her back, contributed a fair whack to her personal income as well.
Mosse and her family split their time between England and Carcassone in France, an area that features heavily in this book. The details and history of this aspect of the tale seem very accurate and whether her infatuation with the area is the cause or the effect of this book is hard to guess.
She composed Labyrinth as part of a trilogy - the second and third books, Sepulchre and Citadel, are available, although as I understand it their stories are not necessarily linked to the events in Labyrinth.
As I mentioned, she sold the TV rights and a four-hour adaptation was made. I've seen the first half and consider it a complete waste of two hours of my life - the book is far superior.
Currently available new in paperback (with a shockingly awful TV-adpatation-inspired cover for which some designer needs shooting) via Amazon for £5.99 as well in a variety of other options such as Kindle, second hand etc.
752 pages paperback.
Published by Orion.
Alice Tanner is at a crossroads in life - her relationship has ended and a relative she never knew she had has died and left her an inheritance in France. Needing a break, she joins her friend Shelagh to volunteer on an archaeological dig in the French mountains for a few days before moving on elsewhere in the country to deal with lawyers etc.
On her last day on the dig, working on her own away from others in punishing heat, she spies a glint of something in the earth. Knowing she should call one of the professionals on the dig, she nonetheless carries on and unearths a buckle - and a lot more.
For her moving the buckle shifts a boulder which she avoids being crushed by just by inches. Still knowing she should get assistance, she finds herself looking into a tunnel previously blocked by the rock, and as if in a daze, she finds herself walking into it.
What she finds, hidden for centuries in the cave, starts a massive chain of events in modern-day France, as well as igniting in Alice strange dreams and what seem to be the memories of another person. As she struggles to deal with both the events unfolding around her and meaning of what her dreams are telling her, and while her friend Shelagh berates her fiercely and refuses to talk to her further, it becomes clear that what Alice found in the mountains is not only massively significant historically but also has a far more significant value to many others who have dedicated their whole lives to finding what Alice stumbled upon as if by fate.
The story's depth, however, comes from the second story that it tells - that of a woman in Carcassone in 1209, daughter of a guardian of the citadel, Alais. Married to a dashing chevalier, Alais is young but shows wisdom, learning about the healing power of plants and often escaping the citadel walls to search for herbs by the river side. Loved dearly by her father - far more so than her sister Oriane, who is a far more bitter and self-serving individual - Alais runs straight to him when she one day discovers a body floating in the river with unusual wounds and no sign of attempt to steal his valuable jewels. Her father, Bertrand, reacts strongly, and Alais realises that he thought he knew the victim from her description.
Set during the time of the crusades in France, which bring their violence and brutality eventually to Carcassone itself, the resulting events start to involve Alais in a mission of massive importance, protecting a secret that her father dedicated his life to safeguard. With not only the crusades but also the deception of her sister and the weakness of her husband to contend with, Alais soon becomes completely committed to the importance of the task that has chosen her, which ultimate takes over the purpose of her entire life.
I don't want to elaborate for fear of ruining the story because I do urge you to give this a try if you enjoy historical or religious theory fiction like this. I could elaborate quite easily but I found this book very readable and was hooked within a few chapters, during which the plot quickly starts to unfold, so it would be remiss of me to ruin that experience for you.
Kate Mosse, not a writer I had considered before as this isn't normally my type of book of choice, has crafted a really great story here. Whilst I feel that Alais was the stronger character and her story the more engrossing account - I would often be entirely wrapped up in her tale when the story would take advantage of a pivotal moment and switch to the modern-day account and in reaction I would feel like screaming and have to stop myself skimming pages to return to it - that is not to say that the tale of Alice Tanner is poor. On the contrary, whilst Alais tells a story of the setting and the past and the events building up to what we ultimately see play out in the modern day, it is the task of Alice to deal with the fall out of events and unravel the mystery. It becomes fascinating as we see the two missions come to a revelatory point, as Alice's discoveries and the events lived by Alais start to complement or seemingly contradict one another throughout. This, Mosse has timed and executed really well.
It would be easy to waffle on about historical context and Mosse does this neatly with an explanatory foreword regarding the crusades and their causes as well as laying out her reason for using mixed languages - old and modern French, although in actuality these are often just single words and are not difficult to figure out and to my mind add authenticity to the characters in the story of Alais and the other characters from Carcassone.
Yes there is historical information included but I do not find this either condescending or pretentious, nor does it detriment the story as a whole.
Mosse has a readable style which makes the heft of the book - which, when combined with the over-used subject concept, could be off-putting (let's face it, if there is a grail, whatever shape or form it comes in, it has a lot to answer for) - and as such my apprehension fell away as I charged through the first few chapters and found myself hooked. I swear I sat and read this for the best part of a whole day and could not put it down - so much for a productive and proactive holiday!
Mosse manages good characterisation although a couple of the modern characters could have done with a little more flesh - in particular in my opinion in the form of one who becomes quite pivotal in the closing stages. However, given the length and the fact that the two stories complement each other in their pace and unfolding of events, I do think it would have ruined the tempo and balance of the story and made it too long if there was too much elaboration, so I won't grumble too much. The evolution of characters in the story of Alais has the benefit of being able to unfold over more years whereas the tale of Alice plays out in the course of a few days in the modern era, so it is natural that there is more depth to the characters in the older story, but regardless I just feel that the characters that we meet first in 1209 Carcassone are the stronger and more emotive protagonists.
I found the conclusion to the story to be very neat - well executed, not rushed and with both stories growing to a fascinating climax alongside each other as all becomes clear. I wasn't left with any lingering doubts or disappointments, and instantly started considering picking up a copy of the author's next book, which has to be the ultimate compliment.
Overall, this has earned itself a spot on what I guess is now the communal "keepers" shelf between Mr Rarr and I. I look forward to reading this again in a year or so when the experience isn't as fresh as it is now, and I'm sure I will be as hooked then as I was this time. So if I go missing from Dooyooland at any time, you can safely assume I've either bought the next book in the trilogy or have started to re-read this one - and if you choose to give it a try yourself I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
This book was given to me as a gift not long after it was first published. I must admit its not one I would ever have chosen for myself, the blurb on the back seemed to suggest it was just one of the many 'holy grail' themed thrillers attempting to cash in on the success of Dan Brown. I know this will out me as a bit of a snob too but I was slightly put off by the sticker on the front that it was part of 'Richard and Judy's Book Club'! However, years later this book has been re-read several times, and I've gone on to read more by the same author, so despite my initial misgivings I did really enjoy it.
The author introduces us first to Dr Alice Tanner, a young English woman volunteering on an archaeological dig in Southern France. Alice accidentally unearths a mysterious cave containing two skeletons and a stone ring with a strange labyrinth symbol engraved in it. Alice soon realises she has stumbled onto something she doesn't fully understand but that other people are willing to kill and die for. She follows the clue of the labyrinth symbol in an attempt to discover the truth about the cave and the two people who died there, but she must evade the clutches of sinister lawyers and secret societies to do so.
Once Alice's story is set in motion we are then taken suddenly back in time 800 years to the city of Carcasonne, not far from Alice's future dig site, and introduced to a 17 year old Alais Pelletier. Carcasonne is on the brink of being invaded by French soldiers ostensibly on a religious crusade to rid the country of so called heretics. They are intent on wiping out the Cathars, who follow a version of Christianity that doesn't rely on churches and priests. It seems as though the French leaders might have power and land, rather than piety, as their motivation however. As well as battling to survive the soldier's onslaughts, Alais and her family have another quest though, to keep three Cathar texts containing powerful knowledge safe from the invaders.
The story jumps back and forth between the present day and 1209 and as it does, the parallels between Alice and Alais and their seemingly disparate lives start to become apparent, and the stories eventually begin to bleed together until they are so intertwined they are one and the same.
The thing that stands out most to me about this book is the obvious love and fascination that the author has with the Occitan region of France and it history. She is clearly very knowledgeable and passionate about the subject, and reading this book inspired me to find out more about the Cathars, the crusade and the city of Carcasonne. Most of the historical events that frame the story happened as written, which for me adds a little something extra to the novel.
This book really doesn't deserve to be placed in the same category as The Da Vinci Code and its many imitators. Although a grail of sorts (not the 'holy' grail though) is part of the story, it is not the main focus and there is far more to this novel than following clues and finding treasure.
The characters of Labyrinth are well developed, although the 1209 characters are perhaps a little more so than the 2009 ones. By the conclusion, you really do care about these people even though they are from a completely different world to our own which could have made them hard to relate to.
If I had one criticism of the book, it would be that its a little slow to get going, I can see how some readers might not stick with it for long enough to get really involved in the story.
I can't actually remember how I stumbled across this book, as it's not the sort of read I usually go for. I can only imagine that it was the name and the front cover that attracted me. I am not a fan of reading about history, but for some reason I decided to make a start on Kate Mosse's 'Labyrinth.
It wasn't long before I was completely hooked. I had never before read a book where it flicked between 2 separate stories and I just loved it. I found myself really enjoying the historical elements as the author clearly knew her subject inside out and was incredibly passionate about it.
I loved both of the main characters and couldn't put the book down. Overall I thought it was really well written and I would happily recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a great read! I literally couldn't wait to pick up Sepulchre and read more by Kate Mosse.
A bit slow to start with, but it soon becomes an interesting read. The story evolves around two related women, Alais in the early 13th century and Alice in 2005. They are both in France and become involved in the secret of the Holy Grail. The book contains some interesting historical info on the area of France known as "Midi", the language of Lanquedoc and the Cathars, a Christian medieval heresy. Nothing too exciting though...
I originally picked up this book for the front cover (I know never gudge a book by its cover) as was interested by the artwork on the front. I had never read anything by Kate Mosse before so was curious to see how the book would pan out. I was not disappointed.
I will admit that it took me a good couple of chapters to get into but as I perservered I found myself becoming more attached to the characters then I had with any other book previously read. A hundred pages in and I was hooked. I read this book constantly and litelarry couldn't put it down. I found myself mesmorised by the plot. I don't want to ruin the book by giving too much of the plot away as it is a unique read. The book begins by introducing you to Alais, a young woman from the year 1209. Two chapters in and the book jumps to 2005 and you are introduced to Alice. The reader soon learns that although these characters are from two diferent worlds, their lives are intertwined.
As we are told two stories at once, so there are two central protagonists. The main charater of 1209 is Alais. She is newly married and living in Carcassone. The 2005 character is named Alice, she is an archeologist who happens to stumble upon a cave which links both her and Alais.
A 700 page novel, which may seem like alot but in the end, you will want it to be longer. When I realised I only had 20 pages to go I tried to slow down my reading so the book would not end.
-Similar books by the Author-
Kate Mosse has written two books that have a some what similar style to them. These are Sepulchre (published 2008 and has 784 pages) and (the book I am reading at them moment) The Winter Ghosts which was released into paperback in October 2010 (a shorter read of 304 pages).
As this book has been out for a couple of years now the book will set you back £5 from Amazon. However I would shop around as you may find it cheaper else where. The book Sepulchre (again by Kate Mosse) will cost you £4.49 and The Winter Ghosts will cost you £4.34.
For a while after finishing this book, I found myself not really being able to enjoy other books as much. This is a completly one-of read and uniquely beautiful (Only other books that compare are Kate Mosse's Sepulchre and The Winter Ghosts). Read this book if you enjoy books such as The book thief by Markus Zusax or any of the Phillipa Gregory Novels. I would defenitly recommend this to a friend.
Part of Richard & Judys book club a couple of years ago, which is one of the reasons I chose this book. The book is based on a premise of two stories happening at the same time however being told at different time periods; 1209 & 2005. As both of the stories develop the reader gets drawn into both worlds which are totally different however are totally entwined. I'm not going to tell the story as don't want to spoil the absolute pleasure this book is to read. However the medieval story is based around a girl called Alais who is newly married and just getting used to her life. She lives in Carcassone and as you read the book the whole city comes to life and sounds absolutely magical (so magical I had to visit there after reading the book!) The story centres around a book that she is given. The modern girl, Alice is an archeologist and she comes across a cave which as the story unfolds relates totally to Alais' story. This book is wonderfully written and Kate Mosse does truly take you to Carcasonne and you can smell the smells and see the sights in your minds eye. An absolutely wonderful book.
Labyrinth - Katte Mosse
Lost in the Labyrinth
Always on the lookout for a new and great read, I came across this slightly large and daunting looking book when my friend was clearing out her cupboards. She had recently brought it, though could not get into it. I took a quick glance at it and figured that to use a quote too much; you can never judge a book by its cover - so I took the leap and brought it home.
Taking a closer look before I opened the pages to read, I felt that the book was very intriguing not only in its synopsis on the back but also in its look. Although a very basic look of patchy blue colour with a gold labyrinth on the front and some symbols down the side, it really seemed to pull me into it (and I hadn't even started reading!). I checked the back before beginning (no not to ruin the end!) to find that it was just under 700 pages long. This may take a while!
The story takes place in two different time zones rather like many (from what I have later found out) of Mosse's novels.
In July 1209 in Carcassonne, Alaís, a seventeen year old girl who seems wise well before her time, is given a mysterious book by her father which he claims to hold the secret of the true grail. Although Alaís can not even begin to understand the words and symbols within its pages, she knows deep inside that her destiny lies with keeping the secret of the Labyrinth safe. She must decide who she can and cant trust and which path she should take for the good of the world.
Meanwhile in July 2005, Alice Tanner is on her last day of volunteering on a friends archaeological dig site in France when she breaks all the rules set for her and goes off by herself. After a short while she is irresistibly drawn to a bolder which seems to be hinding some sort of cave. Knowing she shouldn't, she cant help herself from dislodging (and nearly getting very squashed in the process!) the boulder and entering into the cave alone. Although very fearful, she gets a strong feeling of déjà vu and questions begin forming in her own curious mind not only about the cave itself, but also the strange writings on the cave, her own history, future and present, and who exactly the two skeletons in the cave are and what secret do they hold.
Alice soon finds out that she is more involved in the past and the secrets hidden there than she ever thought possible, and she may not be the only one. Soon she is wanted by the police and those who wish her harm.
It is difficult to give you more information on the book than I have above as I really do not want to give away any spoilers as it really would ruin this whole book for you as this book holds its own secrets throughout the whole story, unraveling slowly though for a purpose and reading it is like working yourself out of your own Labyrinth with many questions popping up in your own mind.
There are many different stories which are based around the 'Holy Grail', one of the more famous now being 'The Da Vinci Code' though apart from a few small similarities, this book takes on a whole new meaning and story line.
The story is a very modern take with a very traditional outlook on the story of the Grail, built for a wide audience of readers. It is full of suspense, mystery, and good verses evil. Both storyline, characters and situations are well thought out and researched and you feel that the author really knows every inch of her 'subjects'. Sometimes this can get a little drawn out with too much of an information overload. At the time, all the information really does seem pointless and a few times I was ready to give up reading for some light reading instead, though I carried on as the pull was too strong not to, and I was glad as all the information is relevant in the end. It is just whether you can hold on long enough to find out.
It took me quite a while to get into this book as it was extremely difficult to follow, especially when the story began swapping not only between different characters point of views, though also between different centuries. At this point, I could not relate to any characters as really the story did not stay with any of them long enough to get to know them. It is not until much later in the book that I actually start remembering who is who and what their purpose is within the story.
The writing is also extremely descriptive and sometimes too much so that really it isn't needed - do we really need to know what colour certain curtains are? Although saying that, on another side of the fence I did get to (half way through the book) really start 'knowing' Alais and Alice which brought some high emotions when reading everything that were happening to them. I started to really empathies with them and follow in my mind everything they were doing, so although it is a little too much to begin with, if you are able to carry on then it will be worth it.
Some of the medieval wordings are a little confusing in parts, though there is a list of words at the back of the book to help you out - shame I didn't find this until I got to the back of the book! Also, in the front of the book is a minimally detailed map of France and the specific places in which the story takes place.
The modern day circumstances resemble a typical thriller style story and in the main involves Alice being caught up with people and places she never dreamed would happen, let alone ever be able to understand. Through her confusion of this, we are confused, though I think it is written this was as when she starts working things out, we are only one step behind (we need one whole step to work out what she has worked out - it can get very confusing at times!).
The past writings were more subtle and calmer feeling and much less confusion sat here, and it came to the point when I didn't want to return to reading the modern day story at all.
The historical writings of the story are well researched and are written in a very well way (if not too well sometimes with too much description), yet it really does bring you into the situations.
CHARACTERISATIONS AND STORYLINES
I felt that the characterizations on a whole were very flawed. Some characters had way too much information over their head whereas others needed much more explinations. I found myself wondering who on earth some people were as they really did not seem to fit in anywhere.
Alice and Alais are the main characters of the story, though Alice more so as she is the one living in the real time, working out everything and in a round about way, the past is being told through her. I found Alice rather annoying at times to put it bluntly, and the writers style of describing everything without really telling us anything made it even more annoying to read. I found the character harder to relate to that Alais, though could still find a small degree of sympathy with her.
I assumed that it would be the modern day Alice whose character I would enjoy and relate to the most, though it was more Alais. She is written in a much gentler and simpler way, and much less complicated. It got slightly annoying with the random phrases repeated in French coming in as I don't feel that was necessary (rather like odd subtitles in a film when they could really just speak in English as the rest of the book is).
To be honest after reading this book, if I was given a quiz on the characters I wouldn't be able to tell you much about many of them apart from the two main girls at all - some, not even their names!
The characterizations though were not the worst part of the book for me. Although the storyline itself, when finally worked out, I enjoyed, the swapping between centuries I found difficult to follow as it just seemed all over the place and poorly executed. The main link used was dreams that both Alice and Alais had of their respective futures and past and within Alice's dreams we were given the idea of what was to come for Alais which was exciting but then we had to go through loads more pages and different characters storylines before even reaching Alais again and by that point we have forgotten what happened last. I think the way it was written was to bring in an air of mysteriousness though all it really brought was confusion and slight annoyance.
I have mixed feelings about this book as I am sure my review shows. On one hand the author rambles a lot, brings in way too much descriptions and too little stability in the story. It gets very confusing with swapping between characters and centuries and it becomes very difficult to follow and understand. On the other hand, though, if you are able to get past the dull bits (and there is quite a few) and get to the end of the book, you will be happy that you did as it is the end that opens up the whole story (not the characters unfortunately - Im still wondering about many of those!). It is the end that answers all the questions you have been waiting for and provides a great closure to the story (even if you don't remember the beginning!).
Paperback 720 pages (Orion 2006)
My friend brought this for £5.00 in Waterstones bookshop, though you can get it for a pound cheaper in Amazon so look around.
The book starts somwhat bizarely when Alice Tanner, holiday maker extrordinaire, ventures away from the archaeolgical dig she is volunteering at and wanders up a hillside where she immediately spots something glittering beneath a boulder. The boulder in question is large enough that it blocks the entrance to a cave but Alice still manages to roll it out of the wall by herself. Perhpaps she'd had three Shreaded Wheat that day. The shiny object turns out to be a medieval belt buckle (still shiny after 800 years - blimey). Still it sets the tone for the remainder of the novel. The concepts within are so far fetched that what could have been a superb book is full of the ridiculous. I know authors are allowed to use artistic licence, it is fiction after all, but theres only so far you can stretch a concept before it ruins a perfectly good plot.
The book is actually two stories running simultaneously 800 years apart. The first follows Alice Tanner as she inherits a house and with it a whole can of worms which turn her into a woman on the run.
The second story is that of Alais du Mas, daughter of a very high ranking castle servant in France. Alais father hides a secret. He is one of the three guardians of a trilogy of books which must be preserved at all cost and must not fall into the wrong hands. This all proves rather difficult when the countrys priest want to burn you and most of your country men for being heretics (anything other than Catholics). As the heretic hunters draw closer Alais father confides in her in case he doesn't fulfil his role as guardian so that his book is not lost forever.
The women, Alice and Alais, share some common telepathic bond spanning 8 centuries as Alais visits Alice in her dreams. Alice becomes intuitive to Alais thoughts and it all becomes a little confusing. Still theres lots to think about. The author includes graphic details of the religious crusades, vague glimpses of life as a chevalier and lots of secret rooms, secret meetings and rich, powerful people who want to get their hands on the trilogy for all the wrong reasons.
So would I read it again. No. Once was plenty for me. I found the use of modern day French and its medieval form langue d'Oc annoying, especially when the author used both at the same time when one or other would have sufficed. Theres plenty of historical detail to appeal to people who like history but for none historians its all a bit too detailed at times and doesn't add anything to the story.
I, like many other readers, really looked forward to reading this book and have been hugely disappointed with it, in fact I would go as far as to say this is one of the worst books I have ever read! I had heard through the press that it was a great read and indeed assumed that if Richard and Judy had selected it for their book club then it must be OK. Things started to go wrong for me pretty much straight away with the appalling and clunky writing style. I was so confused by this that I actually convinced myself that this was a deliberate 'style' adapted by the author to reflect the time period. Unfortunately it continued throughout the whole book. I expected something riveting and intelligent but instead found it dull and weak with poorly crafted characters. On the plus side I did learn a lot about medieval cloaks as the author did seem to spend a lot of time describing them!
Labyrinth by Kate Mosse is a very good book.I actually read the book a few years ago and when I saw her follow up book I just had to buy it.I thought it was well written and kept my attention grabbed from start to finish. I would recommend the book to anyway that likes this particular style with a mixture of old and new as you will not be disappointed. I will defo be reading it again once I have finished her book called Sepulchre.Overall a well written and grabbing book that will not disappoint anyone who may be looking to try one her books before going on to the newer Sepulchre.
after reading this, i arranged a holiday to the south of france to specifically visit the places described in the book! amazing! set in the france - the novel consists of 2 parellel stories, one set in modern day france, the other set in france 100 years ago. yes, the novel has followed on from the success of dan brown's da vinci code, and the novel is a kind of grail trail quest, but in my opinion i thought it was a well written thriller.
the detail is exceptional, and the only disappointment i felt was the ending, which was a little far fetched (even for my liking). considering that Mosse takes such care building up a climatic ending, it seems a shame that she throws it away on an unlikely ending. but despite that, i do not regret reading it, because if you have any interest in history - in particular grail trails or historic france - you will really enjoy this novel.
This is again another book I stumbled across by accident when I had nothing to read at home. I had heard brief reports about this book and knew it had been a best seller, I think the actual size of the book had for some reason put me off from buying the book. Being 694 pages long I hoped this book would prove to be an exhilarating and interesting read. In the end i think it was the Richard & Judy book club sticker that won me over, thus i began to read Labyrinth by Kate Mosse.
The book is split into 2 time periods.
The year 1209 and in a French City of Carcassonne the 17 year old girl, Alais, is given a mysterious book by her father that he claims contains the secret of the true grail. Alais understands that her destiny lies in keeping the secret of the labyrinth safe. This story is played out during the crusades, at a time of uncertainty for the people of Carcassonne and France as a whole.
Meanwhile in 2005 Alice Tanner accidentally discovers two skeletons in a forgotten cave in the Pyrenees. Alice is puzzled by the labyrinth symbol carved into the rock and realizes she has disturbed something that was meant to remain hidden. A journey that will show Alice move around France as she tries to understand what she has unearthed as well as trying to stay on the run from people who are desperate to understand what she has discovered. Somehow, a link to a horrific past-her past- has been revealed.
Labyrinth is a thoroughly addictive read and very absorbing. In my opinion Kate's style of writing is beautiful and the way she describes tender moments in the book are excellently orchestrated. From the very beginning you can see why this book, a thriller book, was selected by the Richard and Judy show through her writing.
The storyline is a new twist on an old story, and despite reading previous books on the Holy Grail, this book is totally different to any others I have previously read.
In my opinion, one of the main downfalls of this book are the amount of characters that Kate Mosse has thrown into this book. All the characters seem to have similar names and on numerous attempts i found myself in great confusion over Audrie and Authie and the umpteen police sergeants, servants and warriors that all were called similar names. I found my self in a right knot!
The book is addictive and I found myself finishing it in just under a week, whether I rushed through it or not I'm not sure, but throughout the book i always thought I had missed something. The story seemed to talk about things that I did not have a clue about, and there was no back story to help solve the mystery I was facing.
Further criticisms I find myself giving is the ending. All the back stories the mystery I faced throughout the book seemed to come together. Key characters you hear their fate but some of the minor/ semi-important ones have no mention despite being at the cave in the end. What happened to them? Did they perish or live on?
I feel that it was only the addictive storyline Kate has created that kept me interested in this book. Through to the excessive use of French language (again half the time I could not decipher to learn what it said; once I've reached the end there is a dictionary-typical) to the annoying and confusion over characters names. Half of me loved the book another half of me hated it.
I do feel that Richard and Judy got this book wrong. Perhaps it is due to me comparing the book to the Da Vinci Code, where Dan brown masterfully links history and thriller superbly together. For me Kate just didn't have that in this book.
However she shows extensive knowledge of the area and her description of the city of Carcasonne have made me really want to travel to the region and have a good nosy around!
Furthermore her description of the events at the end of the book regarding the activities in the 13th century where exquisitely described and very emotional too. The book contains numerous themes, from sibling rivalry, to love, revenge and redemption. Perhaps Kate took onto much?
I feel I have not got anything out of reading the book, but i didn't lose anything either from reading it. If you like a mystery you might like this book, but many people i know struggled to get into it, therefore i recommend loaning it out of the local library rather than putting up the cash.
Those of you who are hoping for a Da Vinci Code part II will be sorely disappointed.
I was quite pleased when this came up on my Book Club's reading list as it was one a book I had been tempted by in the past, and had heard good things about. At 700 or so pages, I figured it had better be good as I almost dislocated my shoulder carrying it in my bag. The book was also Richard & Judy's Best Read of 2006, and I have liked some of their previous selections (or least that of their production team!) The book is another Grail book, which has been all the rage over the last few years. Well, not entirely all the rage as I had managed to avoid the Da Vinci Code and all other books that it had been compared to, tending to avoid fashionable book phenomenon where possible (except Harry Potter - I eventually gave in on that one). I had not specifically heard this book in comparison to the Da Vinci Code et al but as I have not read any of them I cannot comment on how it compares, just on how I found it.
The book divides the story between a present day heroine Alice and an early thirteenth century heroine Alais (see what she did there?). Alice is volunteering on an archeological dig near the Pyrenees when she makes a unique discovery. Due to an error of judgement on her part it all goes a bit wrong for Alice and the archeologists and the police are involved as items appear to be missing from the cave that Alice discovers. A man called Authie from nearby Carcassone also comes and quite what his involvement in the situation is initially somewhat vague. Also as part of the Prologue we see a modern day ritual sacrifice and some unnamed men wandering around. This means nothing at the time and I started off pretty confused.
Alais is the favourite daughter of Intendant Pelletier who served Viscount Trencavel of Carcassonne in the thirteenth century. She is (like all good heroines) bright and spirited and often leaves the confines of the walled Cite when she is not supposed to. Alais makes an interesting discovery of her own and her father confides his own dark secret leading Alais to go off on another adventure and put herself at risk.
The book is very descriptive and a lot of similes are used. Personally I found this a bit distracting, I would rather they get on with the story if they have something to tell. In certain books and genres such descriptions may work but as I saw this as more of a mystery book then I wanted to get on with events. I think at least this could be edited by 200 pages, if not more. In spite of all the descriptive narratives, we don't really get any depth to many of the characters other than the two female leads. In fact I didn't think this book was particularly well written at all. Whilst the story switches between the two lead female characters, I sometimes found that we went too long before hearing about the other character, particularly in the beginning. This made it hard to pick up the thread of the other girl's story, and I almost felt I needed to get to know her again, as I had the other one in my head. Whilst there was an attempt at a mystery, it kind of all got a bit lost - some clues were vague and lost in description, some were signposted in neon and by the end I didn't care anyway.
As I have said I cannot compare this to other Grail type books, maybe Grail books are not for me, or perhaps overly descriptive books are not for me. There is a good book in there somewhere you just need to persevere to find it amongst the waffle and excessive detail. If you think you can be bothered then the RRP is £7.99 and it is bound to e cheaper on the web.
By Kate Mosse
Published by Orion Books
Three secrets. Two women. One Grail.
There have been more Grail stories published in the last few years than I can be bothered to count, and this is only one of the two that I have read (the other being Dan Brownes Da Vinci Code), but as a story, it remains as intriguing as ever. A secret to be kept, or discovered. A collection of people determined to do whatever it takes to keep the power of the secret away from the world. And a person, or persons, so deeply embroiled in the secret that they hardly know themselves which way is up. Fairly standard?
Headlined as three secrets, two women, one grail, the novel quickly became a bestseller, drawing us all in once more with its intriguing labyrinthine cover and its promise of answers.
Alais and Alice are the two heroines of the piece, living hundreds of years apart but inextricably linked in ways you only get to guess at until the very end, when the story has eventually unwound itself, and the answers you had hoped for are as cloudy as a rainy day in Brighton.
Alice Tanner, on an archaeological dig in the French Pyrenees, finds two skeletons in a cave a result of nearly getting herself killed by foregoing the basic rules of archaeology (and sense) start at the top and work down. Suddenly everyone is interested in the secrets of this cave, and the only one who doesnt really understand whats going on is Alice, though somehow the people who do, and who want the Grails secrets for themselves dont believe for a second shes as clueless as she actually is.
Alais is seventeen in 1209, a resident of the Citadel of Carcassonne, and entrusted by her father with a mysterious book, full of strange symbols and words that she does not understand, but yet full of power and forbearing. The story jumps between Alice and Alais, who despite having similar sounding names (phonetically at least) are very different in character and spirit.
The jumping from one situation or part of the story to the next is played out throughout the book, in much the same style as Dan Browne employs in his novels, but sadly without the same degree of suspense the cliff-hanger aspect is attempted at every opportunity by Mosse, but not quite to the same effect. It is perhaps due to the sheer length of the novel that I certainly began to loose patience drawn out to a fine point, by the end you realise that much of what has been told is irrelevant to the plot, and the story could in fact have been played out in half the pages.
But still, its a good yarn, and the last few chapters really deliver in a way that made me quite glad Id persevered to the end. The characters are very real, despite the time difference, though I prefer Alais to Alice. The strong, independent female character would seem to be best suited to the modern part of the story, and yet it is in Alais and not Alice that we seen these characteristics. As a character, she seems more real and rounded her love of plants and herbal healing, her passion, her strength make her a much more enjoyable character to read. Alice seems to wander around, metaphorically bumping into things, and I found her gosh I wonder whats so secret I wonder what Im missing ? attitude a little too much after about the first hundred pages. Bearing in mind there are 697 pages in total to get through, its a bit sad to be bored of one of the main characters so early on.
That said, it is a great story, with much to keep you reading. Perhaps not the page turner that Dan Browne managed, but a grail story with purpose and answers, and well worth persevering with.
Buy this book at any good bookstore, online (Amazon or eBay)
Thank you for reading, Kate x
On her last day volunteering on an archaeological dig in France, Alice Tanner breaks the rules to go exploring by herself. When she manages to dislodge a large boulder - nearly getting squashed in the process (I would wish!) - she is irresistibly drawn into the cave revealed. Fear mingles with a sense of déjà vu... has Alice been here before? Questions abound: what is this strange cave, with inscriptions carved into the wall... and two skeletons laid out in front of the alter? There is a secret lurking here that should never have been disturbed.
Alice is soon caught up in... something. She is questioned not only by the police, but by a sinister lawyer who seems to have power above the law. Soon she finds herself being watched, followed, burgled, and chased - accused of removing ancient artefacts from the cave, artefacts wanted badly by police and a mysterious cult alike.
Some 800 years before Alice's time, another young woman also finds herself caught up in something. Alais discovers her father is one of the keepers of a secret hundreds of years old. As a bloody civil war-come-religious crusade threatens to utterly destroy her home, can Alais decide who to trust, and protect her family and the secret they are sworn to protect?
And thus we are launched into yet another in a long line of books hung on the hook that is 'the holy grail'. And as every book on that subject is going to be compared to The Da Vinci Code now... well, there are a few strained similarities, but that's all: yes, both books talk about the grail; both have a mystery/thriller element; both have shadowy, evil 'bad-guys'. It doesn't make it a particularly comparable novel. Labyrinth is far less sensationalist, for a start, but also far less pacey for it. Mosse comes across as the bigger intellectual, actually knowing and caring about her subjects (history, e.g.) as opposed to Dan Brown's latching on to other ideas and running with them into fiction. Before picking up Labyrinth, I had read that if you disliked one you were more likely to enjoy the other - and so I went into this with high hopes. Sadly, it was not to be: if you weren't overly impressed with one, turns out that there's no guarantee you're not going to hate the other.
The book started out reasonably well, catching me up in the descriptions of the archaeological dig and the alternate and very evocative 12th Century setting. The latter was far more interesting, in my opinion - both cause and effect of it being given more time, more detailed descriptions. It is here I think Mosse succeeds: I could picture Alais' life and surroundings, and to a degree, sympathise with the character. In comparison, Alice seemed superficial and down right irritating.
The current-day section of the story, which does bear some resemblance to the Da Vinci-style thriller, largely involves Alice being caught up in circumstances she never seems to understand. She's pushed along through the story utterly clueless, and good grief but I found that annoying! I couldn't warm to a heroine who struck me as rather gormless, and as Alice is the main character (even Alais is subsumed) - I couldn't really warm to the book.
That said, poor characterisation isn't even the major flaw of this novel for me. The clunky melding between the two storylines didn't help: the main link is Alice having dreams of the distant past. The one advantage of these segments would be to add some excitement by hinting at future dangers Alais will face, but to be honest I wasn't convinced. Mosse tries to be too mysterious for me, I fear.
Then there's the dual language use - utterly annoying. There's frequent use of phrases in French or Occitan immediately translated into English, like a school language tape ("Je voudrais une pomme, s'il vous plait" "I would like an apple, please") - bad memories there! I can understand Mosse's aim for some kind of authenticity, but as far as I'm concerned, she's chosen to write this novel in English and the odd phrase here and there is a form of showing off ("Look! I know some phrases in a very uncommon language!"), not education. In film form you can have subtitles, here it's just repetition - and irritating.
However, the real killer here is the length: SEVEN HUNDRED PAGES of badly paced rambling, with a few moments of genuine story totally drowned out. What excitement there is here becomes diluted in the extreme as Mosse attempts to drag everything out with yet more scene setting and description - something I could forgive in a slow start, but by the time I was halfway through the brick - I mean book! - I was actually very bored. It's a total shame, as cut 300-400 pages out of this and you could have a decent story of ancient sects and secrets, in the form of a taut thriller. Instead it rambles along, has a plot-forwarding moment of suspense, and then generally cuts to something inane in the other storyline.
The modern-day elements are worst for this, leaving dull Alice stranded will a continuing lack of knowledge of what's going on in her own life and the reader is 'treated' to a heavy handed smack of "oooh, the mysterious ancient cult!!". The historic scenes played out largely like that: a piece of historic fiction, and these come close to being the book's sole redeeming feature. Mosse delights in her little details without swamping the reader (unless by sheer overall quantity!), and manages to create a fairly vivid picture of Alais' life and surroundings. A little of her character sat somewhat uneasily with me: Alais seems a relatively modern woman, intelligent and free-thinking, and not afraid to be alone or adventurous. However, she is very much daughter-of and wife-of at various points - admittedly, she herself acknowledges relief at freedom from such moments. It's hard, though, being able to sympathise so much of the time with Alais, only to see her meekly put in her place by her father or husband. Being dismissed from conversations wouldn't wash with me one iota!
Alice, on the other hand, irritated me severely. She's practically the archetypal dippy heroine, blithely wandering down into the basement to see what that creepy noise was. During a thunderstorm. Will a serial killer on the loose. Okay, not those exact set of circumstances, but you get the picture. As a girlie travelling alone in a foreign country, she doesn't half take some amazingly stupid risks. And the total cluelessness is (a) a very clumsy plot device for upping the suspense levels, and (b) entirely horribly irritatingly compounded by having a slew of sudden revelations near the end. Nnnnngh!
Ahem. Frustration tends to win out in this book. Waiting for the story to get on with itself, for the next clue or just for the author to kick herself in the behind. I enjoy a good yarn, but this was just a waste of time. Not recommended.
¤ Boring bits:
Paperback 720 pages (Orion 2006)
Available at time of writing for £3.99 on Amazon
When Dr Alice Tanner discovers two skeletons during an archaeological dig in southern France, she unearths a link with a horrific and brutal past. But it's not just the sight of the shattered bones that makes her uneasy; there's an overwhelming sense of evil in the tomb that Alice finds hard to shake off, even in the bright French sunshine. Puzzled by the words carved inside the chamber, Alice has an uneasy feeling that she has disturbed something which was meant to remain hidden... Eight hundred years ago, on the night before a brutal civil war ripped apart Languedoc, a book was entrusted to Alais, a young herbalist and healer. Although she cannot understand the symbols and diagrams the book contains, Alais knows her destiny lies in protecting their secret, at all costs. Skilfully blending the lives of two women divided by centuries but united by a common destiny, Labyrinth is a powerful story steeped in the atmosphere and history of southern France.