The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse

Posted On 11 October 2018

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TheburningThe Burning Chambers is a book I read a few weeks ago but I’m late reviewing (apologies to the publisher and author in that respect). In a bid to catch up with my errant reviews I’m trying to keep some of my late reviews a little more short and sweet.

I enjoyed The Burning Chambers, I’ve read a number of books by Kate Mosse and sometimes I’m really just in the mood for this author’s particular style of historical novel.

Once again, The Burning Chambers takes us to the Languedoc region of France and plunges us into the middle of the religious wars between the Catholics and the Huguenots.  This is a fascinating historical period and one that the author is clearly knowledgeable and enjoys writing about.  The main plot involves a mystery that begins when the main protagonist, Minou, receives a note that simply states ‘she knows that you live’.  I’m not going to delve deeper into the plot as there are plenty of helpful reviews already out there.  The blurb for the book is here if you want more information about the book or author.

What I particularly enjoyed about this book was the writing style and the way Mosse evokes the period with descriptions of everyday life. I always feel that I’m able to immerse myself fully into the place and the period when reading her work and it makes the read that much more enjoyable. These were frightening times.  Neighbour speaking out against neighbour and the fear and tension so heightened that almost anything could be taken the wrong way.  People lived in fear, unable to trust anyone, and that really comes across here.  I’ve visited Carcassonne and Toulouse which provide the two main settings for the story and it was really great to visit them again in a different period through the pages of this book.

I felt that once again Mosse gave us a strong and easy to like female character.  Minou has her head screwed on well.  She’s sensible and cares for people in general – not just family but others who she perceives to be in need – and is keen to help.  In fact it’s this side of her character that first leads her to meet Piet – who is himself on a dangerous mission.  She loves her family and will take risks in order to protect them.  I had no problem in finding myself drawn to Minou and being scared about what would happen to her as she ran head first into danger.

Alongside Minou is another female character, something of a religious zealot who thinks that God speaks to her.  This woman will go to great lengths to achieve her aims and in fact I was surprised by just how single minded and ruthless she was.

In terms of criticisms.  Nothing that prevented me from enjoying the read but I would mention that this feels more like historical romance, there is an element of mystery involved, particularly in terms of family secrets, but I felt like the unlikely romance between two people from different religious stances stole the limelight a little.  I missed, a little, the dual timeline that I expected – which is my own fault as there was no indication that there would be a dual timeline and with that missing I probably didn’t enjoy this quite as much as Labyrinth.

Also, not a criticism, I would mention that this isn’t a fantasy novel.  I only point that out as my reviews more often than not lean towards fantasy or magical realism so I don’t want people to pick this up expecting that element.

Overall, this delivered exactly what I expected and wanted.  An entertaining historical read, wonderfully evocative and a read that I was able to sink into and enjoy.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.