The Burning Chambers review: The sights and sounds of France brought to life

May 11, 2018
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Now The Burning Chambers is the first of another three books set in the French south-west. The novel is set in 1562 during the Wars of Religion and is divided between Carcassonne, Toulouse and the village of Puivert.

In France, a young unstable boy, Charles IX, is on the throne and his mother, the detested Catherine de’ Medici, is regent. Catherine leans towards tolerance for Huguenots, incurring the enmity of the Catholic nobles.

In Carcassonne, Catholic bookseller Bernard Joubert faced the Inquisition for heresy. Traumatised by his experiences, he leaves the bookshop and his two younger children in the care of his eldest daughter Marguerite, known as Minou.

When she and her brother Aimeric help Huguenot leader Piet Reydon to escape to Toulouse, they too come under threat.

So they leave Carcassonne for Toulouse to stay with their late mother’s half-sister and her uncle. This is to keep headstrong Aimeric safe and also because Minou has fallen in love with Piet.

In Toulouse Minou faces grave danger. While in prison, her father let slip the existence of a hidden will.

Although we do not know why, the knowledge that Minou is alive sets fearsome Blanche de la Bruyère, chatelaine of Puivert, on her trail.

Meanwhile, Piet’s existence is also perilous as the tensions between the Catholics and the Huguenots reach melting point.

He is being pursued by the vicious and ambitious priest Valentin, once Piet’s closest friend.

As Toulouse is torn apart by a battle between the warring religious groups, Piet and Minou find themselves drawn together.

Mosse is a champion storyteller who maintains a lively tempo across a 600-page novel.

Some of her characters are stereotypical but she fleshes them out, sets them against a well-imagined and plausible historical background, and brings alive the sights and sounds of France.

If this opening salvo is anything to go by, there is much to look forward to in this second Mosse trilogy.



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