Labyrinth

( 117 )

Overview

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...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
When archaeology volunteer Alice Tanner chanced upon the cave opening, she had no idea that she would be utterly changing -- and endangering -- her life. Inside the cave were the remains of two people, a stone ring, cryptic etchings on the wall, and a small, timeworn leather bag. At her own peril, Tanner discovers that the story of the cave goes back to the 13th century and then far, far beyond. A brisk, well-researched historical thriller.
From the Publisher
Elegantly written...An action-packed adventure of modern conspiracy and medieval passion. (The Independent [UK])
Ross King
… the novel distinguishes itself by juggling two compelling story lines, unscrambling (and making digestible) chunks of medieval history and offering a pleasing wealth of information about the Languedoc, a region whose landscape and history Mosse loves deeply and knows intimately. Her contagious enthusiasm for the subject and dexterous handling of her material make for an open-throttle narrative drive across 500 pages of white-knuckle twists and turns.
— The Washington Post
Library Journal
"Three secrets. Two women. One Grail." That's how the publisher sums up this first book from the cofounder of Britain's noted Orange Prize, who was honored as a European Woman of Achievement in 2000. While volunteering at a dig in the Pyrenees, Alice discovers two skeletons, several artifacts, and the drawing of a labyrinth. They lead her back to a woman named -Alais, whose father entrusted her with the secret of the Grail at the time of the-Albigensian heresy. Foreign rights sold to nine countries [rights sold in an additional 22 countries]. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly
Mosse's page-turner takes readers on another quest for the Holy Grail, this time with two closely linked female protagonists born 800 years apart. In 2005, Alice Tanner stumbles into a hidden cave while on an archeological dig in southwest France. Her discovery-two skeletons and a labyrinth pattern engraved on the wall and on a ring-triggers visions of the past and propels her into a dangerous race against those who want the mystery of the cave for themselves. Alais, in the year 1209, is a plucky 17-year-old living in the French city of Carcassone, an outpost of the tolerant Cathar Christian sect that has been declared heretical by the Catholic Church. As Carcassonne comes under siege by the Crusaders, Alais's father, Bertrand Pelletier, entrusts her with a book that is part of a sacred trilogy connected to the Holy Grail. Guardians of the trilogy are operating against evil forces-including Alais's sister, Oriane, a traitorous, sexed-up villainess who wants the books for her own purposes. Sitting securely in the historical religious quest genre, Mosse's fluently written third novel (after Crucifix Lane) may tantalize (if not satisfy) the legions of Da Vinci Code devotees with its promise of revelation about Christianity's truths. 8-city author tour. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Two women, separated by eight centuries, share a special connection both to each other and to three mystical books of power in this adventure novel by the cofounder of Britain's Orange Prize for Fiction. In the 13th century, French Crusaders were determined to exterminate all religious heretics in the rebellious south, including the Cathars living in Carcassonne. Bertrand Pelletier, soldier and keeper of the "Book of Words," confesses his secrets to daughter Alais, thereby putting her in grave danger. During an archaeological excavation in present-day southwestern France, Alice Tanner uncovers a cave containing two skeletons and a stone ring engraved with a labyrinth. Alice must stay one step ahead of ruthless enemies while conducting her own investigation into the mysteries of the labyrinth. Mosse's obvious love of the region's Occitan language infuses her prose with great passion. However, the trick of alternating story lines becomes confusing, as does the irritating plethora of mystical objects. A flawed work, but, given the popularity of Da Vinci Code-type fiction, strongly recommended for public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/05.]-Laurel M. Bliss, Princeton Univ. Lib., NJ Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Dan Brown probably need not move over, but he may have to share the wealth with this well-researched tale, set in both contemporary and 13th-century France (Carcassonne), and featuring two intrepid heroines. Written by the British literary insider who co-founded the prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction, this is a quickly paced adventure that wears its considerable learning lightly-and of higher literary quality than The Da Vinci Code, to which it will inevitably be compared. Its modern protagonist is 30-ish Alice Tanner, who joins an archaeological dig in the Pyrenees hoping to rev up her uneventful life, and makes an astonishing discovery while exploring a mountainside cave. Two skeletons and a ring bearing a labyrinth design lead, by an agreeably circuitous route, to a mystery related to the story of the Holy Grail, dating back to the culture of ancient Egypt-and attracting various shady characters with vested interests. Meanwhile, in a parallel narrative, teenaged Alais, daughter of one of the Grail's appointed guardians, is entrusted with an invaluable book, one of three that together reveal the Grail's long-hidden secrets. Further complicating Alais's burden is the fact that her family are Cathars, a gentle religious sect who believe that Satan created Earth and God the heavens, and have thus incurred the land-grabbing enmity of northern neighbors who persecute them with genocidal efficiency, in what has since become known as the Albigensian Crusade. Mosse moves briskly between the two narratives, painting an impressively dense picture of life in the farming region then called Languedoc, and devising nifty matching situations and characters (e.g., two obstreperously venal femmesfatale). It all works smashingly until late in the story, when an ill-advised (and quite overlong) summary of the history of the Grail legend brings the drama to a stuttering halt. Fun for most of the way-and very likely to be one of next summer's popular vacation reads. First printing of 100,000
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425213971
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/6/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 206,379
  • Product dimensions: 6.03 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.13 (d)

Meet the Author

Kate Mosse is the author of the New York Times bestselling Labyrinth and Sepulchre and the Co-founder and Honorary Director of the prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction. She lives in England and France.

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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION
In this extraordinary thriller, rich in the atmospheres of medieval and contemporary France, the lives of two women born centuries apart are linked by a common destiny.

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; between the skeletons, a stone ring, and a small leather bag.

Eight hundred years earlier, on the eve of a brutal crusade to stamp out heresy that will rip apart southern France, Alais is given a ring and a mysterious book for safekeeping by her father as he leaves to fight the crusaders. 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. As crusading armies led by Church potentates and nobles of northern France gather outside the city walls of Carcassonne, it will take great sacrifice to keep the secret of the labyrinth safe.

In the present, another woman sees the find as a means to the political power she craves; while a man who has great power will kill to destroy all traces of the discovery and everyone who stands in his way.

ABOUT KATE MOSSE

"I want the women to have the swords"

—Kate Mosse

Kate Mosse is an author and broadcaster. She is the presenter of BBC4's Readers and Writers Roadshowand guest presents Saturday Review for Radio 4.

Kate's first novel, Eskimo Kissing, was published to great acclaim in 1996, followed in 1998 by an exciting, bio-tech time-travel thriller, Crucifix Lane. Her short stories and articles have appeared in a range of magazines and newspapers.

Kate has published two non-fiction books: Becoming a Mother, a companion to pregnancy and childbirth (now in its fourth edition), and The House: Behind the Scenes at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, which accompanied the award-winning BBC television fly-on-the-wall documentary series.

Kate is the Co-Founder & Honorary Director of the Orange Prize for Fiction. She is the author of several of the Orange Prize education initiatives and chaired the judging panel for Orange Futures—a promotion supporting the work of women novelists aged 35 and under. She also judged the Orange/Scotsman Young Communicators Award in May 2002. She is also one of the regular judges of the Financial Times/Arts & Business Sponsor of the Year Awards and has judged many writing competitions for adults and children.

On TV, Kate is the presenter of BBC Four's Readers & Writers Roadshow. Among Kate's guests on the show have been many of the world's leading and best-selling authors including—Dr Maya Angelou, Philip Pullman, Paulo Coelho, Beryl Bainbridge, Joanne Harris, Professor Richard Dawkins, Ian McEwan, Peter Ackroyd, Tracy Chevalier, Joanna Trollope, Margaret Atwood, Pat Barker, Fay Weldon, Jean Auel and Ian Rankin.

From 1998—2001, Kate was Deputy Director of Chichester Festival Theatre in West Sussex, the first woman ever to hold the position. She has written and presented several programmes for BBC Radio 4 on the arts and sponsorship. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Kate was named European Woman of Achievement for Contribution to the Arts in 2000.

Kate and her husband live in West Sussex and Carcasonne, France.

A CONVERSATION WITH KATE MOSSE
Q. What inspired you to write this story?

Sixteen years ago, my husband and I bought a tiny, stone house in the shadow of the medieval walls of the Cité of Carcassonne in the Languedoc, southwest France, about two hours' drive from the Pyrenees. My husband—who's an interpreter and teacher, as well as a novelist—had lived in Paris for several years and we wanted a fulltime base in France for our family, but it was a coincidence we chose Carcassonne. A recommendation from a friend of a friend of my mother-in-law was the only reason we found ourselves heading towards the Pyrenees. I knew nothing of the area, nothing of the history of the region.

The first time I went to Carcassonne, November 1989, I was six months pregnant with my first child and it was cold and wet and dismal. But yet, I fell in love straight away. I felt I belonged in Carcassonne, that it was the right place for me to be. I explored both the Cité and the surrounding countryside, realising straight away that the landscape of southwest France was the landscape of my imagination.

Labyrinth is, in some ways, my love letter to Carcassonne—even though it took me some to realise what I wanted to write—and the mountains, hills, rocks, woods are as much characters in the story as the people, real and imagined.

Q. Why are there so few adventure heroines, and even fewer female adventure authors?

I've always adored adventure stories—from Rider Haggard's classic novel She and Dumas' The Three Musketeers to more modern proponents of the genre such as Wilbur Smith's The Seventh Scroll and Alastair McLean's Ice Station Zebra. It's a strange contradiction that despite the huge success of adventure movies—Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Last Samurai, Kingdom of Heaven etc—It's a literary category that's fallen out of favour, is seen as a little old-fashioned maybe, but still I knew I wanted to write the sort of novel—lots of jeopardy, lots history, lots of battles and sword fights — that I most enjoyed reading. Sometimes, books choose their authors, I think, rather than the other way round.

The more I thought about it, the more I realised that many of the traditional characteristics of top class adventure writing—strong lead characters, action, peril, quest, challenge, a cliffhanging climax and final showdown, the defeat of the baddies by the goodies—have actually been appropriated by crime/thriller novelists, as well as historical writers. Adventure writing is still alive and kicking, it's just a matter of definition.

But … I wanted to write an historical adventure/thriller story with a twist. Rather than a traditional action hero, I wanted the women to get to do the swashbuckling for once. I wanted the girls to have the swords, rather than find themselves always waiting to be rescued. I wanted them to be firmly at the centre of their own story—sure, there's lots of love (and sex!), adventures, setbacks and triumphs—but Labyrinth is a quest novel rather than a "happily-ever-after." (And judging from the letters and emails I've had so far, there are lots of male readers, as well as female readers, who like the idea of the women doing the swashbuckling!).

Q. You wrote two previous novels that were considered quite literary. With Labyrinth, you've had a big popular success in Britain, sales to foreign publishers, a major launch in America, and so on. Is there a conflict between literary quality and commercial success?

I don't think readers worry about such labels. What matters is whether or not a book is well written and whether or not it happens to be your cup of tea. We all have different tastes, and reading, particularly of fiction, is a personal relationship between an individual author and an individual reader. The only questions worth asking are: Does the novel make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end? And, when you've finished, do you wish you could start all over again? Commercial/literary, thriller/adventure, historical/contemporary, all that most authors want is for our novels to find their way into the hands of readers who'll appreciate our work. It's all about the fit, not the label!

Q. Who were the Cathars, and why do they figure so prominently in your book?

The Cathars were a sect of Christians who flourished in southwest France and Italy in particular, from the end of the 11th century to the middle of the 13th century. Although there's much discussion about the origins of their religious belief—there are links with Zoroastrianism, Gnosticism, Manichaeism, Bogomolism as well as some aspects of Hinduism—it is difficult to trace their particular brand of Christianity to just one source. The term "Cathar" was not a contemporary phrase—they were denounced as heretics by the Catholic Church and referred to as such in the Inquisitional Registers and they called themselves simply Bon Homes or Bons Chrétiens—but it is the term most commonly used today. The Cathars were Christian Dualists who believed in a universe of equal and opposing forces, permanently and finely balanced: light versus dark, good versus evil. God ruled Heaven, the Devil held sway over the World and everything in it, so they therefore had no concept of Hell beyond their living existence. Fundamental to their belief system was the doctrine of Reincarnation. What few Cathar writings have survived talk of human being as spirits encased in "tunics of flesh," waiting to be returned, through reincarnation, to Heaven. At the point when all matter ceases to exist and all spirits have returned to God, then the World—the Devil's Kingdom—will end.

Because of their Dualist doctrine, the Cathars had no churches or sanctified buildings, they despised the Cross as an instrument of torture, and had no need of relics. The only thing they valued was the power of the Word and their most sacred text, within the New Testament, was the Gospel of St John. They were vegetarians (although they ate fish) and, most interesting of all given the historical context, had female as well as male priests—an issue that the Church of England is still struggling with in the 21st century!

Of course there were fanatics, as in all religions, who hated the World and everything in it, but for the most part Cathar followers were tolerant and accepting of other systems of belief.

As a result, at the time of the historical sections of Labyrinth—1209-1244—the Catholic churches in the Languedoc were empty for the most part and much of the population, from the Counts in their castles to the ordinary folk at the gates, were sympathetic to, if not actually followers of, the Cathar church. Their groundswell of support, coupled with their beliefs, obviously put them into opposition with the accepted Catholic orthodoxy of the day.

Q. The Crusade conducted against the Cathars by the northern French was very brutal and lasted for decades. It also gave birth to the Inquisition, which most of us think started in Spain. Why do you think this historical episode is so little known today?

Although it is usually associated with 14th century Spain, the Inquisition was actually established a century earlier, in 1233, by Pope Grégoire IX, under the control of the Dominican Order, precisely for the purpose of extirpating Cathar "heresy." All attempts by the Catholic Church to defeat the Cathars through theological debate had failed, as had attempts to conquer the people of the Midi by launching a Crusade against them.Finally, accepting they had lost the battle of words and that the sword was not enough, the Pope decided he needed something more systematic, more suppressive, more insidious. The Inquisition was born. And the consequences of this still haunt the Catholic Church today.

Even though the Cathar church was organised into Bishoprics and Dioceses, the lack of specific and dedicated buildings or meeting places, the Cathars' natural disregard for worldly goods, as well as their unwillingness to engage with the World, meant that they left few physical traces of their existence. The Crusaders razed to the ground any dwellings known to have harboured Cathars and burnt all copies of the New Testament in the local language, Oc or Occitan (from which the region gets its name). For hundreds of years, the Cathars were all but forgotten, even in France itself. Until 1960, there wasn't even a memorial to the Cathar martyrs burned at Montségur in 1244. However, in the past thirty years and more, French historians, patriots, theologians and poets -Jean Duvernoy, René Nelli, Claude Marti, Anne Brenon, Michel Roquebert to name but a few—have been researching, writing, publishing, reinterpreting the history of the Cathars for the general reader, their way of life, their theology, their poetry and music for modern readers.

Now, by 2006, the glories and horrors of the region's medieval past are honoured everywhere. The old Oc spellings for place names—Carcassona for Carcassonne, Besièrs for Béziers—can even be seen on the road signs. The Languedoc truly is Cathar Country.

Q. How did you research the different aspects of the book—the archaeology, the history of the Cathars and the Crusade against them, the Grail legends, and so forth?

Like all writers of historical fiction, libraries, museums, and books, books and more books! I gobbled up anything I could lay my hands on, from medieval theology, 13th century French history, battle craft, architecture, churches to Occitan poetry and music. Having thoroughly familiarised myself with all aspects of my medieval time period, I then researched Grail legends and gathered information about the development and proliferation of pavement and walls, labyrinths in medieval Europe (and beyond). For this, like all of us nowadays, in addition to visiting libraries and specialist institutions, I could not have managed without the internet. There were also one or two very specific pieces of information—for example, information about medieval manuscripts and book making—where I sought out the help of experts, such as the Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts at the British Library in London.

I also adore physical research! I visited many medieval re-enactment events, both in England and in southwest France, watching Jousts and seeing how battles were fought. No one can imagine how exhilarating it is to hear and see a hail of arrows being shot, turning the sky black above your head, until you've witnessed it for yourself! Fortunately, my children share my enthusiasm for the medieval past, so were always happy to come with me. To get inside Alaïs' skin, I also had a couple of sword fighting lessons what it felt like to wield a sword. It was incredibly difficult! After a week, it was clear that I would have gone down in my first battle! To my disappointment, I turned out not to be a natural swordswoman ….

Over the past sixteen years, I've spent a great deal of time exploring not only the medieval Cité of Carcassonne, but also many of the tiny villages, tracing the old mountain paths in the Pyrenees, disappearing down caves in the mountains, much to the consternation of my family! What I hope is that someone visiting Carcassonne, for example, or any of the key towns mentioned in the novel will be able to use Labyrinth as a guide book!

Q. Your book has been compared by many to The Da Vinci Code. Were you aware of that book when you started writing? How are the two novels alike and different?

We've lived part of the year in Carcassonne for the past sixteen years and I began researching, planning and writingLabyrinth five years ago now, well before The Da Vinci Code hit the shelves! I was a little worried people might think I was jumping on the bandwagon, but the sheer volume of research (and length of the book!) means that everyone's realised thatLabyrinth is a long term project, the result of many years' work, and it's not come up at all. However, after I'd finished and delivered the first draft of Labyrinth to my agent in January 2004, I did buy a copy of The Da Vinci Code. I'd never heard of it, but the cover and blurb grabbed my fancy, so I took it on holiday and thoroughly enjoyed reading it next to a swimming pool in the Canary Islands! At first glance, Brown and I look to be working with a similar sort of material—secret societies, ancient secrets, based in France and the Grail at the heart of our stories. However, the moment I started reading, I realised that despite the obvious similarities with Labyrinth—and I was sure readers who liked one will like the other too—in fact the two novels were actually significantly different in tone, atmosphere, style, scope and intention.

The most obvious difference—apart from the female lead characters, the medieval backbone to Labyrinth, the focus on theology and historical analysis—is the ways in which, as novelists, present our Grail stories. The Da Vinci Code is based on the familiar Christian Grail legends of the 12th century—poets such as Chrétien de Troyes, Robert de Boron and the great German writer, Wolfram von Eschenbach. What lies at the heart of Labyrinth, however, is not a Christian Grail at all, but rather something far older that belongs to all religions and none.

What the success of The Da Vinci Code shows is that the reading public has an appetite for such stories mixing history, myth and mystery, which can only be good for authors and good for reading. As a broadcaster and as Co-Founder & Honorary Director of the Orange Prize for Fiction, much of my work on a day-to-day level is concerned with reading initiatives and promoting writing to readers. Books such as The Da Vinci Code play an important part in putting reading right at the heart of things.

Q. Why do you think there is such continuing fascination with the subject of the Grail?

I think that all of us, men and women alike, are attracted to epic stories, stories that take us away from the mundane and the everyday, into the big subjects, the big emotions. Love, Honour, Responsibility, Duty, Loss, Faith, Sacrifice, these are issues that most of us—whoever we are, wherever we live, whatever our experiences in life—can understand.

Many of us are also fascinated by the way that history becomes myth, myth becomes legend. Readers enjoy being literary detectives, tracking stories back to their origins, working things out. I also suspect we're most of us seduced by the idea of secrets, truths that endure beyond time or place or context. The classic stories, stories with stamina, tell us not only about times past, but also throw new light on time present.

I'd always believed that if there was such a thing as a "Grail," its provenance would lie in some much older system of belief than the work of 13th century Christian poets—probably as far back as Ancient Egypt 2000 BCE, a period of time when there was a prodigious development of a knowledge of mathematics, magic, astronomy, and writing.

I also thought that if such a thing as a Grail—grail—did exist then it would be as much of a curse as a blessing and there would be a serious purpose to it, a reason why one person was chosen and another not. In Labyrinth the purpose of the grailis to allow someone to live in order to bear witness. In medieval times, as today, history is written by the winners, not those who are defeated. As a novelist, I use the idea of extended life as a way of telling, through hundreds of years, the conquest and subjugation of the independent Languedoc.

In the end, the human heart hasn't changed so very much over the centuries, despite variations in experience, opportunity and expectation (particularly for women!). I think most of us, despite what we read in the newspapers every day, are looking at ways to connect with other people rather than the opposite. Good, action-packed, moving, well-researched novels, with universally-recognizable characters, are just one way of achieving connections with other people. And the Grail legends, of all the classics, fit the bill in every way.

Q. What are the origins of the story of the Grail? Why has it taken so many different forms over the centuries?

A: Although many Christians assume there is Biblical reference to the Grail, in fact it's the poets not the priests we should be thanking! The first obviously 'Holy Grail' story is Chrétien de Troyes' Le Conte du Graal (Perceval) in the mid-1170s (although, in common with the custom of the time, he credited his patron for having told him the story in the first instance); this was followed shortly afterwards by a poem by Robert de Boron, Joseph of Arimathea, then, most significantly, the great Parzival, by the German poet Wolfram von Eschenbach, in 1200, which put the story on the map for good!

As for why it's taken so many forms and endured over so many centuries, I think that the great stories are those that speak beyond time and place and context, so are constantly rewritten, reinterpreted, explored and reworked by writers, musicians, artists from different cultures, backgrounds and ages for new audiences, new times.
 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • In the prologue Kate gives glimpses several leading characters. But she doesn't tell you who is who, which to sympathise with and which to condemn. What effect does this have on how you, as reader, begin the novel?
     
  • Also in the prologue, there are glimpses of the two time periods. Do you think it is important that, after the prologue, Kate starts the novel proper with 10 chapters set in the medieval past?
     
  • How did you feel when the action moved to contemporary France in chapter 11?
     
  • How quickly did you discover that some of the modern characters mirror or echo characters from the past? Which ones did you spot first? What were the clues?
     
  • Do you see Guilhem as an unhappy character, who never fully atones for his betrayal of Alaïs, or does he finally put things right?
     
  • Have you ever felt, like Alice, such an affinity with a place that you seem to know who must have previously lived there and the emotions they enjoyed or endured?
     
  • Some of Kate's medieval characters are real, in the sense that people with those names lived and breathed in the circumstances Kate narrates 800 years ago. Did you notice anything different about the 'real' characters? (For example, Raymond-Roger Trencavel, Agnès de Montpellier, Simon de Montfort and others.) And have you visited our website to learn more about these people—www.mosselabyrinth.co.uk?
     
  • There are very few scenes of violence in Kate's novel, but those few are extremely severe. Do you think they were 'too much', 'not enough' or 'just right'?
     
  • Kate wanted to tell an adventure story in which active women shaped their own destinies. One journalist called her 'Wilma Smith'! Is this aspect of the adventure important to your enjoyment of the novel?
     
  • Although the Labyrinth story and the trilogy of special books have a spiritual element, they exist alongside Catharism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam, not as part of any of these religions. How do you think Kate handles questions of faith?
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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2006

    Could not put down...

    I am so glad I bought this book! I am so not disappointed with my purchase. This story takes place in modern-day and 1200s Southern France (Languedoc). There is mystery, love, betrayal, murder, conspiracy...everything that makes for a great story. It's also about something that has intrigued people throughout history...The Holy Grail. Of course, there is the whole labyrinth mystery and what it has to do with the holy grail which makes this story different and exciting from other grail stories. There are some questions left unanswered in the story, but keep in mind that the grail is something we may never completely know or understand. I enjoyed how this story went back and forth in time and I particularly liked how there was a parallel between the characters in the present and the characters 800 years prior. Kate Mosse did an excellent job in her descriptions of the people and places. The writing is also excellent. If you like history, mystery, grail, and interesting places, read this book. You won't be able to put it down, and when you're done reading you will want the story to continue. I hope Ms. Mosse writes more stories like this in the future. She has a new fan in me!

    11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2008

    A great mystery in Southern France...

    I was immediately drawn into this story which takes place in Southern France, in the Languedoc region. Sometimes, I thought, gosh this book is long, but then, we all read J.K. Rowling! If you hang in there, it does begin to fall into place, with lots of twists and turns. As a student of French language, I loved the references to the langue d'oc. And, as a believer in reincarnation, I loved the characters and story. When I love a good book, I will reread it and this is definitely the case!

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2007

    Different than I expected

    I agree with everyone who's said that 'Labyrinth' had a slow start and a exciting finish. The beginning section 'basically the first 180 pages of the book' seemed somewhat boring to me, and I couldn't really get into the novel. Once the second portion started it got better, and toward the last 200 pages I couldn't put it down. One thing I think was both a blessing and a curse was the fact that the book took place in both the 1200s and 2005. It was interesting to get the two stories and see all the parallel events between them, but it was annoying because you would just be getting into one time period's story and then it would switch again. I really did like the characters, however. Alais 'the woman from the 1200s' especially you really grow to love her character. One thing I want to clarify, though, is that the back cover says 'of high literary quality than the Da Vinci Code.' I think the author's writing style is probably better, but the story itself I think was a tad weaker. 'Da Vinci Code' grabs you from page one and gets more in-depth with the story of the Grail, whereas 'Labyrinth' touches little on the Grail and goes into a lot of details you didn't necessarily need to know. However I would still recommend this book to anyone who likes a good story. If you can make it past the first chapters, the ending is most certainly worth it. Overall I'd say 4 and 1/2 stars.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 28, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Mystical Historical France

    Amazing book. I think I liked Sepulchre better, but this one was still fantastic! Half of the story takes place in the 13th century, as the Cathars are attacked by the precursers to the Inquisition. Amidst that, there is a secret that must be protected. The other half takes place at a modern archaeological dig. A volunteer is suddenly the victim of attacks after she found an underground labyrinth. Mosse does an incredible job of interweaving the past and present while maintaining suspense in both.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2008

    UNREAL

    This author shows us that there are some people out there that can come up with their own great ideas.I'm not usually such a fan of these types of books, but it's A MUST READ !

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2008

    Interesting story, but I won't recommend to my friends

    Labyrinth was an interesting story with a lot of details that frankly should have been trimmed. I did enjoy the multiple timelines and there were a few interesting twists.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2009

    Can't finish and I refuse to torture myself

    If an author is writing 'stories' just to try and prove how smart she is, I don't want any part of it. It's okay if people speak other languages, I have no problem with that. My problem is when these same people, who are supposed to be story-tellers first and foremost, are interrupting my reading time to go look in the glossary (and yes, there is one in the back) to find out what all the French words mean. That's not why I read novels. Mosse, write stories in plain English and you might have a bigger following.

    2 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Would make a good movie.

    This book took me a while to read, but only because I had to stop and translate the conversations that were in French. Most of the book is in English, but if you don't speak French this one might take some time. The story line was great, it was a little had to follow starting out because of the changes in lifetimes, but once you get into the book and start to meet new characters it is hard to not want to know what happens next. I am reading the second book now, I'll let you know what I think when I'm done.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2008

    one-trick-pony?

    There is not doubt that Ms Mosse is an outstanding writer, able to weave a well written plot with beleivable characters. I first read Sepulcher, Ms Mosses 2nd book, then backtracked and read Labyrinth. Basically the same plot line. The heroine has a link to the past, which she does not understand, but little by little through flashbacks and intertwining an ancient story with present time happenings, the connection slowly unfolds... Because I had already read and enjoyed Sepulcher, Labyrinth left me a little cold because of it's familiarity. A good read non the less. Just wish it had held surprises that I had not already read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2007

    Slow Start - Great Finish

    I agree with the other reader who said it had a slow start/setup but finished as a page turner. The writer truly loves the topic and spends a lot of time setting up the scenes but it pays off in the end. I read this one past my bedtime and got up early the next morning to fit in a few more pages.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2007

    A reviewer

    I promised to stick with it for 100 pages but ended up doing twice that and still don't like the slow pace or the fact that it is very difficult to keep track of both stories. Not enough action....what is the point!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2007

    Good read, but slow begining

    I really enjoyed reading Labyrinth and would definately reccommend it, but not without first warning readers that the begining is quite slow and a lot less intriguing then the latter part of the story. If you can get through the first 100 to 200 pages (I know that sounds like a lot) the story then begins to unravel. As you continue on it only gets better as more and more is revealed. I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish the book, as I just could not put it down. If you enjoy a bit of history wrapped up in a tale of courage and heart, than read Labyrinth.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 23, 2014

    I had to finish this book, because I wanted to find out what hap

    I had to finish this book, because I wanted to find out what happened.  I was very disappointed.  I thought the story was confusing, and, although well-written somwhat preposterous.  People living for 800 years?  OK, call it a fantasy rather than fiction.  But I also found several holes in the story and couldn'[t keep the many characters straight.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2012

    Great start to the Labyrinth Trilogy

    I loved this book. Even though I was lost about half the time, I couldn't put the book down and I believe it is one of the best books I have read. If you like historical fiction, mystery and action, this book is for you. I highly recommend this book. I can't wait to read the next two.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 1, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Well-thought out

    (actually 3.5 rounded down)

    To be honest, there was a lot more in this book that I liked than I disliked, but I think it's mostly the writing and organization that gives this novel a low rating.

    Pacing was not consistent throughout the novel and it put me off. It starts off at a very slow, deliberate pace. Then three quarters the way through it picks up lighting-fast and becomes this great page-turner only to have it drop and describe the rest of the plot in a narrative between two characters. The first half goes into detail about the politics and relationships and the development of characters I assumed were vital to the story only to have the last third mention what happened to them and (in some cases) their deaths in passing.

    Don't get me wrong, there was much I liked about this book, the way it combined past and present one of them. I had thought from the beginning that the past-present connection would be cheesy and was dreading the moment the connection happened, but it was actually pretty heartfelt and meaningful. I really enjoyed that part.

    Some characters were not as fleshed out as others (even though they were the main characters) but others were gloriously three-dimensional and won my heart. Guilhem in particular is in my opinion the strongest character and what kept the book going near the end for me.

    All in all, this book had great depth in politics and atmosphere and setting but lacked in development and organization. Still a good and interesting read, though.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2007

    Couldn't put it down

    This was a well-written story about two women connected by fate, circumstance, and blood. Mosse cleverly tells parallel stories about Alice and Alais--two women who lived hundreds of years apart, yet they share a connection in the present. The characters are well-thought out and very intriguing. I could not put this book down as I always wanted to find out what happened next.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2007

    Kept me awake!

    As a busy mother of three I look forward to some down time with a good book at night before bed. Too often, though, I end up falling asleep before reading too much. Kate Moss' Labyrinth succeeded in keeping me interested and awake. Through Bzzagent I learned of this book and it's similarity to The DaVinci Code in that it involves a search for the Holy Grail. As I started reading it I learned that aside from that fact it is a very different story. In fact, Labyrinth is actually two stories that are wondefullly woven together. The book jumps back and forth from present day France, where a young woman named Alice stumbles across something that eventually puts her and others in danger, and 13th century France, where another young woman named Alais learns that her father has been the guardian to an ancient secret. With each new chapter I became more engrossed in the two stories. I was always surprised when the story would again move 800 years - and at the same time I was excited to learn more about each story. The closer I got to the end of the book the more curious I was to see how these two stories, these two women, would ultimately come together. I was not disappointed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2007

    Loved it!

    I enjoyed Mosse's writing style. Though separated by time Alice and Alais stories run parallel while told in a linear manner that flows very well. This fictional lesson in Southern France middle age history shows us the cruelties of power and religious fanaticism.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2007

    Good, but not great

    I bought this book on CD to listen in my car as I drive to and from work. The story was slow, and would have lost my attention, if it had not been an audiobook. I didn't care too much for the ending, and found it to be a bit too perdictable.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2006

    AMAZING

    An amazing feat of story telling intertwined between the centurys. An adventure old as time, is brought into a fresh light. Mosse actually brings you into the past to the point where you feel you could be 'Alais.'

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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