Eight hundred years earlier, on the eve of a brutal crusade to stamp out heresy that will rip apart southern France, Alais is given a ring and a mysterious book for safekeeping by her father as he leaves to fight the crusaders. The book, he says, contains the secret of the true Grail, and the ring, inscribed with a labyrinth, will identify a guardian of the Grail. As crusading armies led by Church potentates and nobles of northern France gather outside the city walls of Carcassonne, it will take great sacrifice to keep the secret of the labyrinth safe.
In the present, another woman sees the find as a means to the political power she craves; while a man who has great power will kill to destroy all traces of the discovery and everyone who stands in his way.
©2006 Mosse Associates, Ltd.; (P)2006 Penguin Audio, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., and Books on Tape
One thing that I've learned about reviews is that not everyone likes the same things. Why ask a rock music fan if he likes opera and vice versa. This is historical fiction that explores a people in southern France, the Cathars, who dared challenge the early Catholic Church. If that is of little interest to you, then move on.
This book was one of my favorites because it had good character development, suspense, fluid story, and it taught some very important history about the early Catholic church. The Christain religion had started to go down divergent paths and something had to be done to get it back on the straight and narrow. The story at the very end does get a little fanciful with some connections to Egypt mythology. I think that Mosse was making the connection between ancient Egypt and some of the basic beliefs of Christainity. (See also books by Crossan and Pagels.)
Don't misunderstand - this isn't a faith or spirtual book. It is cultural history told through a pretty good story.
I learned a great deal about the culture of southern France and northern Italy. I realize now that some place names, like the Col de Bonne Homme (Mt Blanc area) is a reference to the native Cathars. Further web searches showed me that Mosse had been pretty faithful to history. The last stand of the Cathars was at a famous castle that became an object of study for the Nazi's (a la Indiana Jones) because of the Cathar connection. Go figure.
As for the narrator, I enjoyed listening to her presentation. She has a good range of voices to use for the different characters. I am not in agreement with others who were less enthusiastic.
Bottom line - it is a sophisticated story that is well worth the listen.
If you like historical, conspiracy murder mysteries, this will grab you at the beginning and carry you through to the end. It starts in the present at an archaeological dig, then starts going back & forth in time as the story unravels. Very interesting historical facts with some explanation of the story's conspiracy roots and the how & why of it's continuing into the present add greatly to the story. It's somewhat on the level of the Knight's Templar stories, but not the same line. Good reader, good story. Enjoy!
I'd give this 3.5 stars. The reader is very good, 4 stars.
The trouble with this book is the unevenness between the past and the present storylines. If you stick with it, eventually you learn to care about Alice (the central character in the present). The book has a pretty slow pace, but the last four hours are engrossing! I feel the end makes up for the problems of the beginning (and, yes, middle). If you are on the fence like I was about this one, I urge you to give it a try.
The historical period covered is one I knew nothing about (a crusade in the 13th C. against the south of France!). The inclusion of some French and some Occitan words was not a distraction for me. Now that I've finished the book, I've learned there are websites with extra materials (maps and further reading). D-oh! Maybe that info will be useful to other readers.
Or if you prefer, listen. This is the first book that i have listened to by Kate Mosse, and I found this to be very difficult to 'put down', I found myself trying to find time to listen to the book, even at times that I should have been doing other things. I always enjoy books based on history from the middle ages and this was perfect, Ms. Mosse did her research and her detail on the life back then was great, right down to the last detail
it was all I could to to keep plugging away at this one. I was WELL into the 2nd of 3 parts before the story really started to get my interest. The reading was okay, but the accent was kind of annoying. Regardless, I stuck it out and the book was pretty satisfying overall. I will say though, I've been a member for many years and this was one of the most books that most challenged my attention. It's not an easy listen -- you have to want it! Good luck!
I knew nothing about Cathars or Crusades in Southern France when I started this book so much of the first part of the story was somewhat confusing for me. Add the jumping back and forth in time and wow, my head was spinning trying to figure out who was who and what was what. I had to rewind and replay several sections to figure out what was going on. But after doing this and getting through the first section, this was a book I couldn't put down easily. Just the kind of book I enjoy, a great historical/mystery/thriller with religion/holy grail thrown in for good measure. This is an audiobook that I am going to go back and listen to again, all 19+ hours of it!
I also very, very much disliked the narrator, whose voice I found grating. The novel, even if I had read it on paper, I did not find well written. I wouldn't have given it even one star, but apparently that is a technical impossiblity on the webpage. There seemed to be many anachronisms. Fairly early in the story, I didn't like or respect the main character, or understand her motivations, and lost interest in the novel about a fifth of the way through. I slogged on, but after getting about a third of the way (and this was just listening in my car, in traffic, so it didn't have to be very good) I was so bored and uninterested that I didn't finish listening to the book. I would not, obviously, recommend it at all.
This book would seem to have been written by a breathless teenaged girl eager to please her creative writing teacher. The author follows all the rules kids are taught in writing class: use at least one simile per paragraph; always use an adjective with every noun (two or three are even better); description, description, description! Alas, while this may work well to get a good grade on a high school short story, it makes for tedious reading in a novel. The author also seems to have had the movie rights in mind. During the long explanatory conversations, she practically provides stage directions. There was one towards the end of the book where the words, "He paused," were used so often that I wished I'd though to count them.
The parallel stories are engaging. The characters, though two-dimensional and stereotypical (the plucky heroine, the stalwart father, the evil siren, the brave but doomed leader), are fleshed out enough to hold one's interest in the story. A ruthless but sharp editor would have made a very big difference in this book.
Contrary to some other posts, I thought the narration was good but the story is not.
It's full of holes and has numerous torture and gruesome scenes.
If you're looking for something adventerous and fun, this isn't it.
An audio book has two components, which make it either a good listen or bad, or somewhere in between. The writer has to have a good story and understand how to write but the story alone is not enough to hold the reader's attention. And if the writing is poor, the narration is tough . . . to follow and to engage.
This book has two flaws: horrihble writing and terrible narration. To give the narrator the benefit of the doubt, perhaps it's the writing, but in any event, if you respect what a good author and good narrator do, leave this be.
My suggestion is this writer spend a little time studying the craft and that the editor who bought the book be exiled to some land where the written word is banned.
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