Carcassonne 1562: Nineteen-year-old Minou Joubert receives an anonymous letter at her father’s bookshop. Sealed with a distinctive family crest, it contains just five words: SHE KNOWS THAT YOU LIVE. But before Minou can decipher the mysterious message, a chance encounter with a young Huguenot convert, Piet Reydon, changes her destiny forever. For Piet has a dangerous mission of his own, and he will need Minou’s help if he is to get out of La Cité alive.
Toulouse: As the religious divide deepens in the Midi, and old friends become enemies, Minou and Piet both find themselves trapped in Toulouse, facing new dangers as sectarian tensions ignite across the city, the battle-lines are drawn in blood and the conspiracy darkens further. Meanwhile, as a long-hidden document threatens to resurface, the mistress of Puivert is obsessed with uncovering its secret and strengthening her power.
The only word for a book like The Burning Chambers is epic. This is a sweeping tale of love and religious conflict and burning ambition. It’s steeped in history and while I am no expert I know that a lot of research went into this novel. It is my fourth book by this author and they are all filled with a wealth of accurate historical detail.
At times I got quite stressed reading it as I was so engrossed in the story, particularly the potential fates of Minou Joubert, Piet Reydon and little Alis that I had to keep reading to make sure they were alright. I fell asleep worrying about Alis, who is a year older than one of my granddaughters, so I kept picturing her face. She doesn’t have the halo of curly dark hair though.
The description of the bloody battles between Catholic and Huguenot in Toulouse are harrowing and brutal, and it seems unbelievable that people could be so cruel. But you only have to look at somewhere today like Israel and Palestine to realise that nothing changes (just different religions) – instead they bomb each other from a distance so they don’t see the death and destruction close hand. They don’t have to wield a sword and cut someone down in the street – old, young, whoever they hate. Anyway that’s enough of my rant – just killing in the name of God makes no sense to me. OK I said I’d shut up now.
I love Minou. She is so brave. Unfortunately she is a Catholic and Piet is a Huguenot, but their opposing religions cannot be allowed to stand in the way of their love. Minou has no idea that she is an heiress and that Blanche de Bruyere, the Chatelaine of Puivert, needs her dead so she can inherit instead. Blanche is also pregnant, but the child is not that of her late husband. The father is Vidal (Monseigneur Valentin), a scheming priest and formerly a close friend of Piet, but whose unbridled ambition will take him to the position of Cardinal by any means. I’m not sure who is worse – Blanche or Vidal.
There are lots of other characters that you will grow to love, like Minou’s feisty brother Aimeric, their father Bernard, her aunt Madame Boussay, Cecile Noubert, and Berenger. All these characters are fictitious but there are others that really existed, as did the conflicts.
If I had one criticism it would be that because the book is quite long, I had forgotten what had happened earlier when I got further into the book.
Many thanks to The Pigeonhole and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.
About the Author
Kate Mosse is an international bestselling author with sales of more than five million copies in 42 languages. Her fiction includes the novels Labyrinth (2005), Sepulchre (2007), The Winter Ghosts (2009), and Citadel (2012), as well as an acclaimed collection of short stories, The Mistletoe Bride & Other Haunting Tales (2013). The Taxidermist’s Daughter was published in 2014.
Kate is the Co-Founder and Chair of the Board of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (previously the Orange Prize) and in June 2013, was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to literature. She lives in Sussex.