Labyrinth (Languedoc, #1) by Kate Mosse
GENERAL SPOILER WARNING
I really love that the author’s note includes explanations for the differing languages and the reason for it. There’s a whole note at the start explaining langue d’oïl and langue d’Oc. At the back the author’s even included photographs and a tour of the modern day location for anyone curious. I just think that’s so cool.
The focus on the Cathars immediately intrigued me. I’ve found the Cathars fascinating ever since the film Like Minds, which I watched a few times growing up. For those who don’t know, the Cathars were a sect of Christianity that the Catholic Church denounced and ultimately got rid of by instigating the Albigensian Crusade.
The story itself is split between two timelines: 2005, France, with (mainly) Alice; 1209, Carcassona, with (mainly) Alaïs. You get some POV chapters from others in their periphery or those whose journeys intersect with theirs. I admit, I did skim the other characters’ scenes a bit. I’m sure other people will wholly enjoy them, but I just preferred to find out what the main characters were up to and it was a bit on the long side reading all the different characters’ plots. Like there is a lot happening re: the mystery of the Grail, but I was mostly interested in the character development scenes, lmao. This happens to me a lot while reading. I love really detailed plots, but sometimes I just want to know what’s happening between the characters. That said, the Cathar history absolutely fascinates me, so I really appreciated those scenes. I suppose I mostly didn’t care for the modern day villains or setting. I wanted to read the historical fiction side of the book rather than the modern part. (This is a me problem, not the book’s problem.) So when you go into a book for the historical fiction and half of it’s set in modern times, you just want to get through those scenes and get back to the others, lmao. So, again, don’t take my skimming those bits as a sign that they aren’t important to the book. They totally are, I was just in the mood for historical stuff during my read.
What I did really find fascinating was how Mosse wrote the Cathars’ beliefs around life and reincarnation and how that could be intertwined with the Grail stories. It was really cool how she interpreted that and I found the whole thing very compelling. I liked how much emphasis there was on mutual respect and working together between the guardians of the Books: Jewish, Muslim and Christian; men and women.
I really enjoyed Alaïs’ story. I loved reading about the side characters in her time, too. Her father, her husband, her sister, her friends around the Cité. And the villain being her sister was a horrifyingly fascinating twist. And I think because of that, I was a bit frustrated that Alaïs’ later story was summarised by a certain character in the present story rather than actually told through Alaïs herself. Like we spent so much time with the start of her journey, why couldn’t we have read the middle and end of her journey? Although again this could be me craving a historical fiction novel as opposed to a mystery that starts in the past and finished in the future.
All in all, I did enjoy it and I’m compelled enough by Mosse’s writing to definitely give more books of hers a try. I did really want to know what was going to happen and I loved the religious and philosophical aspects of it. I just preferred the historical setting and characters to the modern ones.