Alice Tanner is helping out on an archaeological dig in the south of France when she finds a cave that obviously has some significance. She finds an altar, a labyrinth, and two skeletons inside. Unbeknownst to her, she has stumbled on a secret that a lot of people have been searching for, most who would do anything to find it, and she's caught right in the middle of it.
Centuries earlier, Alaïs Pelletier is caught up in even bigger events. Her beloved city of Carcassonne is the object of a Crusade. The tolerance that makes her city so vibrant has drawn the wrath of the Catholic Church. A vast army from the northern part of France is marching to stamp out the heretics. Amidst all this turmoil, Alaïs finds out that her beloved father has a secret that must be kept safe at all costs.
Ugh, I'm having a hard time getting my thoughts about this down.
This just never grabbed me. It's supposed to be some sort of Grail-literary-thriller thing and I just kept looking for the thrills. I finally found them about 30 pages from the end. The rest of the time I was just kind of waiting on the characters to catch up to what I had already pretty much figured out. That's not even exactly right. What was going on was so obvious that I kept wondering what the point of the whole thing was. Now that I've finished I'm still kind of wondering.
I did a little better with the storyline set in the past. It was moving a little too slowly for me, but at least I could see where the characters were coming from, I understood the tension, and I felt like they were reacting to it realistically.
I couldn't really buy Alice's reaction to anything in the present. She discovers a cave, gets roughed up by some random dude, and all of a sudden she's running around the French countryside, away from the bad guys, and trying to find out the meaning of the labyrinth while having crazy dreams. She never seemed to grasp how bad the baddies were. "Oh, someone I don't know just gave me a message to meet someone else I don't know in a cemetery? I'll be right there." Um, she's worried about her life at this point, and she goes skipping off into the unknown. Someone breaks into her hotel room? "Well, Mr. Manager, I need a different room." See that? Not a different hotel, a different room. They found her the first time, but it's going to be infinitely harder to find her down the hall. She spends a couple of hours on the internet in the library and she discovers everything anyone could possibly ever want to know about labyrinths and, I believe, this Crusade in France. Granted, there's a mystical element to the story that gives her some "insider access" (more about that shortly) but I couldn't buy that she learned so much in such a short time. Her whole storyline just irked me.
The mystical element bothered me a little too. I love fantasy, so don't think that I'm someone who just has trouble with this kind of thing. Alice keeps having these dreams that seem to be showing the past, but once we learn what actually happened in the past, it has nothing to do with what she dreamed. Well, not as directly as I expected it to.
And now that I'm sitting here thinking about it, the ending bothered me too. Some stuff happens that makes me wonder at the need for all the secrecy. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration. I do see the need for secrecy, it just doesn't seem to be such a matter of life-and-death.
I did like learning about this Crusade. I had no idea anything like this had ever happened. I kept wondering what Europe would have been like if the religious tolerance of this region had spread. It would have been a much different place, I'm sure.
I'm thinking that fans of The Eight by Katherine Neville (another Grail book that I had issues with) will like this more than I did.
Read an excerpt.
Find author Kate Mosse on her website and her blog.
Buy Labyrinth at
Malaprop’s | Better World Books
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