The story starts in winter, 1562, in the South of France. In a prison in Toulouse, a man is being tortured, while in Carcassonne a young woman awakes from a bad dream, a sad memory. The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse is heavy on atmosphere and historical detail and, like Mosse’s Languedoc trilogy, is slow to start. Despite my confusion, and I admit to being confused in parts for two-thirds of the book, I read on because Mosse is an expert storyteller who spins a tale and reels you in so you sit up late at night reading just one more chapter. Sometimes though, I wished she would cut some of the detail.
This is a story of religious war, of prejudice and violence, of loyalty and love, and principally a woman and a man who find themselves on opposite sides of the religious divide. Minou Joubert is a Catholic, the daughter of a bookseller who believes in selling books of all faiths for everyone to buy freely. When she receives an anonymous letter, sealed with a family insignia she does not recognize and comprising only five words ‘SHE KNOWS THAT YOU LIVE’, she is mystified. That same day, fate crosses her path as Huguenot convert Piet Reydon flees capture. And so starts this spiraling and twisting story of a fight for control of Toulouse between Catholics and Huguenots, the mysterious quest of Minou’s fragile father Bernard, Minou’s mysterious letter, a Bible, traitors who smile and friends who are taciturn. Letter forgotten, Minou and her young brother Aimeric are sent to Toulouse for their safety. There they stay with their mother’s aunt but find themselves in a bad-tempered house where Huguenots are hated and their uncle is a political agitator. Toulouse seems more dangerous than Carcassonne or is the danger following Minou?
Minou is a great heroine and I await the next installment of the series with curiosity. The Prologue and Epilogue hint that this is not a standalone book, set in 1862 in South Africa, a woman is seeking answers in a graveyard. Is this the beginning of book two?
Read my review of Citadel, third in Mosse’s Languedoc trilogy.
If you like this, try:-
‘In Another Life’ by Julie Christine Johnson
‘Fair Exchange’ by Michèle Roberts
‘The French Lesson’ by Hallie Rubenhold
‘The Burning Chambers’ by Kate Mosse, #1 Huguenot series [UK: Mantle]
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE BURNING CHAMBERS by @katemosse #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3wV via @SandraDanby