Labyrinth (Languedoc #1) by Kate Mosse
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5 stars
Synopsis: July 2005. In the Pyrenees mountains near Carcassonne, Alice, a volunteer at an archaeological dig, stumbles into a cave and makes a startling discovery-two crumbling skeletons, strange writings on the walls, and the pattern of a labyrinth. Eight hundred years earlier, on the eve of a brutal crusade that will rip apart southern France, a young woman named Alais is given a ring and a mysterious book for safekeeping by her father. 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. Now, as crusading armies gather outside the city walls of Carcassonne, it will take a tremendous sacrifice to keep the secret of the labyrinth safe.
I have had this book on my shelf for absolute AGES. I’ve also been interested in reading it for even longer than that. I’m talking years here. So I’m quite proud of myself for finally getting to it. It wasn’t quite what I expected to be honest, but I still enjoyed the read overall. Let’s see why.
As I usually review fantasy books, this section is always called “world”. But this was more a historical fiction book, so I decided to talk about the setting of the book instead.
This book is divided into two timelines. In the first, you follow Anaïs -a young woman in Carcassonne (I think)- in the 1200s or late 1100s. This is the time of the crusades, and a division of the Christian faith in France -which results in the burning of “heretics”. I really loved this timeline of the book. It was actually my favorite, both in atmosphere and characters. Anaïs is an incredibly inspiring and strong woman, doing everything she can for those she loves. She was smart, capable yet at times too trusting.
Then in current times -or rather 2005– we have Alice Tanner, who is volunteering at an archaeological dig near Carcassonne. The entire book is really set in France, although Alice is English (I think). Weird stuff happens at the dig after Alice makes a certain discovery, and she doesn’t feel quite safe anymore. So throughout the story, you’re trying to connect the dots between Anaïs and Alice. I have to admit that I liked Alice a tad less than Anaïs, although I’m not entirely sure why. I just felt more intrigued by Anaïs.
I really liked the setting of this book. I don’t read enough books that play out in Europe, which is a shame. I loved reading about France, even though I haven’t visited Carcassonne yet myself. Throughout the story, the characters travel -and thus so do you. It’s interesting to hear the differences described between the same cities by Anaïs and Alice. How much has changed? How foreign do the customs from so many years ago feel?
This is where the book got a little predictable for me. As I mentioned before, I really enjoyed Anaïs’ story. It was intriguing to discover what was going to happen next, what she would do next when trying to escape the fanatic religious people. Her story wasn’t predictable to me at all, aside from what happened with the heretics and such -because that’s basic history. Following her journey was a true pleasure.
Alice’s story felt more predictable to me though. I could mostly guess what happened, and I had it all figured out before the ending. It didn’t bother me that much, but it did make me less excited for her chapters. While I guessed the basics of what was going on, I still have some questions that were left unanswered. How does the whole system actually work? There’s no explanation at all.
All in all, I enjoyed the ride this book took me on. Definitely worth it.
As I said before, I truly enjoyed Anaïs as a character. I thought she was smart, strong and kind. Sometimes that kindness led to her being too trusting though. I guess we all have flaws, no? I found her story to be truly moving. Although I severely disliked her husband, Guilhem. Seriously, you don’t deserve her.
Alice was an interesting character too, although I feel like by the end I both know her, and don’t know her at all. I feel like so much of what I know about her is intertwined with others. But she was definitely a smart woman as well. I both like the ending for her, and don’t like it -mainly because of the love interest. I don’t like that part.
Sajhë was my favorite character. There should have been more of him in this story. I am not okay with the fact that there wasn’t. Still kind of mad about it, to be honest.
There are many more people of importance in this story, yet it would not do to spoil you. So I’ll just say that I have quite strong feelings about a lot of people in this story. Anaïs: love. Sajhë: love. Guilhem: dislike. Oriane: hate. I guess it’s an impressive feat for this story to invoke quite strong emotions.
While this story was quite predictable in the 2005 timeline yet left me with some questions at the same time, I’d still recommend it. Yes, it’s the first in a trilogy, but they are companion novels, not really sequels. I thought it was a fun historical fiction novel, and I absolutely loved the setting of the South of France.