The Rose Labyrinth

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Overview

From bestselling British author Titania Hardie comes a mystical fiction debut that takes readers on a romantic journey from Elizabethan England to modern-day London where a centuries-old secret awaits.

Before his death in 1609, Queen Elizabeth's spiritual consultant, astrologer, and scientific advisor John Dee hid many of his most astonishing written works, believing that the world was not yet prepared to face the shocking truths that they revealed. For seventeen generations, ...

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The Rose Labyrinth

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Overview

From bestselling British author Titania Hardie comes a mystical fiction debut that takes readers on a romantic journey from Elizabethan England to modern-day London where a centuries-old secret awaits.

Before his death in 1609, Queen Elizabeth's spiritual consultant, astrologer, and scientific advisor John Dee hid many of his most astonishing written works, believing that the world was not yet prepared to face the shocking truths that they revealed. For seventeen generations, his female descendants have carefully guarded the secret of his hiding place, waiting for the right moment to bring Dee's ideas to light. That time is now.

In The Rose Labyrinth, Titania Hardie masterfully blends historical fact and fiction as she introduces readers to Lucy King, a beautiful, young documentary producer based in London. With the help of a brilliant group of friends, Lucy races through London, France, and New York to decipher the clues that will eventually lead her to the hidden treasure of the Rose Labyrinth. Along the way she finds true love with Alex Stafford, the doctor who saw her through a life-threatening heart condition and transplant.

A sweeping adventure for readers who loved The Da Vinci Code and The Expected One, The Rose Labyrinth is a decadent, romantic novel with a historical twist. It features a wonderful mix of literary references, from Shakespeare, to the Romantic poets, to Gabriel Garcia Marquez; the folklore and history of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Paganism; and of course, astrology and numerology, of which Hardie is an expert. As the Rose Labyrinth tells us, the world we think we know is not all that it appears tobe.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

When Lucy King receives a heart transplant, she gets more than a new ticker-she gets the memories, friends and quest of donor Will Stafford, descendant of Queen Elizabeth's spiritual adviser, John Dee. Soon, Lucy's on the trail of a secret protected by generations of Dee's heirs. Unfortunately, ruthless fundamentalists pursue, convinced that Dee's secret holds the key to the Rapture. A softer, semifeminist riff on The Da Vinci Code, Hardie's debut is richly woven, drawing on sources ranging from Elizabethan mysticism to computer games; the intricacy of the quest will pull readers in, but the story loses steam before coasting to a disappointing end. Hardie falls victim to some of the same pitfalls as Brown, letting interesting background material devolve into dry recitation and fact-combing. Further, her characters are almost all kindly, whip-smart do-gooders or swaggering bad guys, and Hardie is reticent to put her heroes in real danger (lest it interfere with their research). She blurs the lines between faith and reason cleverly, but her labyrinth of exposition will probably wear out readers before they find the exit. (Nov.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

This fitting first novel by Hardie, better known in the U.K. for her nonfiction on the mystical arts, uses as a primary plot device John Dee, the astrologer for Queen Elizabeth I-a historical figure who has inspired a variety of characters and works from Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest to Michael Scott's recent YA novel, The Magician. Hardie uses the ubiquitous time-shifting narrative style to tell the story of Will; his brother, a heart-transplant recipient; and a cadre of supporting players who become involved in a race to uncover John Dee's cryptic prophetic documents. Pro-Armageddon extremists are also pursuing the Dee secrets, preserved for centuries by Will's family and now seemingly being pieced together in a way that threatens all humankind. Hardie's details are well researched and encyclopedic and her puzzles, number gimmicks, and conjectures about Europe's cathedrals and labyrinths entrancing. This book is more British in tone and phrase than most American audiences are probably used to, but with the provocative plot and a happy though predictable ending all may be forgiven. Recommended for most popular fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ7/08.]
—Laura A.B. Cifelli

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781433255571
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/1/2008
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged, 12 CDs, 13 hours
  • Pages: 12
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Born and educated in Sydney, Australia, Titania Hardie is the bestselling author of a range of distinctive books published in the UK on folklore, magic, and divination and recently a new series of children’s books, The Frangipani Fairies. The Rose Labyrinth is her first novel. Titania lives in Somerset with her husband and two daughters.

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Read an Excerpt

1

A blackbird's song broke into his uneasy dreams, but the shutters on the cottage windows were still tightly closed.

Will had arrived late, the faded September twilight long gone, but the moon had been bright enough to find the secreted house key among the geraniums. He woke now in panic in the darkness, strangely disorientated, though a tiny shaft of light was trying to force its way in. Without his noticing, morning had come.

He leaped from the bed in a rush, and worried at the window catches. The wood had swollen in the rainy weather, and the shutters stuck for a moment before his fingers understood them. Then instantly he was bathed in intense light. It was a perfect early autumn morning, the low-lying mist already pierced with sunshine. The myrrh scent of roses came in with the light and the moist air, blending with the distinct note of French lavender from a hedge somewhere below. Such bittersweet memories stole in with the smell, but at least they restored some sense of calm and drove the haunting faces that had crowded his dreams from his mind.

He had forgotten about the immersion heater last night, but he was desperate to shower off the dust from yesterday's long ride from Lucca. He found the cool water refreshing, sorry only to lose the heat that might have eased the stiffness in his body. His Ducati 998 was definitely not a touring bike: it was like a tetchy supermodel. Breathtakingly quick, absurdly demanding, yet exhilarating to ride, it suited Will's humor and eccentricity to perfection; but over long stretches without a break it was uncomfortable, if he were honest. His knees had been cramping a little in the leathers late yesterday, but he shrugged that off. You had no business riding such a bike if you were fainthearted.

His face in the mirror confirmed his mother's view of him as "an angel a little fallen"; he resembled an extra in a Zeffirelli film, he thought, his jawline outlined with dark stubble. He laughed with shock, recognizing that at this moment the look would unsettle even her. There was something manic in the face laughing back at him, and he knew he hadn't kept the demons of his journey from getting a little too close to his soul.

He pared — rather than shaved — away the growth of several days, and wiping soap from the razor he suddenly noticed a slightly faded rose which had dried perfectly in an old ink bottle by the sink. Perhaps his brother, Alex, had brought someone there in the last couple of weeks? He had been so immersed in his own thoughts lately, he hardly knew anyone else's movements. He smiled, intrigued at the idea.

"I'll call him early this evening," he said aloud, surprised at the unfamiliar sound of his own voice, "once I get to Caen." The ferry wasn't leaving until nearly midnight; but right now, he had things he wanted to do.

In the serene morning light of the kitchen he started to relax for the first time in weeks, losing the disturbed, fugitive feeling he'd found shadowing him recently. The smell of apples in the orchard spilled through the open door — bringing the comfort of the thirty-one autumns he'd enjoyed before this one. He'd run from everything and everyone, but it felt good that he was coming home. He rinsed the bloodred wine stain from the glass left from last night and threw what was left of the French loaf into the oven to encourage it for a few minutes. He decided to check the bike, as he barely remembered how he'd parked it: all that had kept him going during those last grinding miles at speed from Lyon was the thought of refuge, breaking into the pungent Meaux brie he'd packed in his rucksack, with a baguette, a glass of his father's St.-Emilion, and bed.

Outside, everything was disarmingly peaceful. There was a late flush of wisteria scrambling over the front of the cottage. Apart from superficial signs of neglect betrayed by an uncut lawn and unswept path, the house didn't reveal the family pain that had shaped its solitude for many months. Following the sudden and terrible loss of Will's mother from cancer late in January, no one had appeared to want to visit it. Easily accessible on any three-day weekend from their home in Hampshire, this had been her space, her escape, her joy to paint and garden in; and her ghost haunted every corner even now, in broad morning light. His father was grieving quietly and saying little, working as hard as ever to avoid thinking too much; and Alex seemed somehow to cope with all events without letting others in on the depth of his feelings. But Will was proudly his mother's son, emotional in his response to life and passionate in his relationships. And here, in her enchanted space, he missed her.

His eyes swept the short pebbled lane from the road to the door, but nothing exceptional caught his attention. The emptiness was almost an anticlimax — but a welcome one. It seemed that no one knew, or cared, where he was — at least for now. Unconsciously his fingers toyed with the small silver object suspended from a short chain around his neck, suddenly closing on it possessively. Then he headed toward his mother's rose garden. She had spent more than twenty years gathering a collection of old blooms, in homage to the great rose growers, that would have looked perfectly at home in Malmaison. She had painted them, embroidered them, cooked with them; but if they noticed she was gone, they whispered it to no one. Set into the fountain among the beds was a bright mosaic tiled with broken china, which she had made herself when he was small. It was a spiral with a motif of Venus, patroness of roses, in the heart of it. It exerted a magnetic pull on him.

Vaguely noting that the sunshine-yellow bike was grimy with the miles, but perfectly safe in the shade by the house, Will retraced his footsteps. The smell of good coffee brought him back to the present as he went into the kitchen. He ran his hands through his untidy curls. His hair was clean and already dry from the warm air, but badly in need of a cut. He'd better do that before Alex's birthday lunch on Sunday: things were frosty enough between his father and him already, without his looking quite so vagrant. His fairer brother, with straighter hair, was always neat and untangled, but after more than a month in Rome Will had started to resemble a local. And that suited him; he preferred to blend in wherever he could.

There was no butter, but the warm bread was good smeared with jam from his mother's last batch in the pantry. He was licking his thumb when a postcard on the dresser took his eye: unmistakably her handwriting. "For Will and Siân," it began. He reached for it. When could she have written this?

For Will and Siân. Try to rest for a few days. There's some venison in the chest freezer — can you make use of it? Be sure to check the knot garden for me. See you at home over Christmas — D x

Last November, it must have been. He and Siân had spent most of that year quarreling, finally splitting up late in the spring, but strife had dogged them at least since his birthday in August last year when her unceasing demands for commitment had convinced him that it would be better to abandon the idea of a week in the house in Normandy together. Siân had no other friends there at the time, and without much French she was thrown back entirely on him, which he doubted their relationship could take at that moment. So they had never come and collected the note, walked in his mother's healing garden, nor eaten a last supper in the Pays d'Auge.

He smiled now to think of her: three months on the road had softened his anger. She was so strikingly unusual — not to everyone's taste, but thus, somehow, doubly so to his, and he suddenly felt an unanticipated longing for her physically, as though aware for the first time of the blank space beside him and in his heart. But setting passion aside — the passion that had been the nucleus of their relationship — he knew he had been right to end it. Their love was springtime, and the skies had changed. He was not forgiving and pragmatic like Alex, nor always a finisher of what he started, and he could never be the husband she wanted — the achiever, the man to shop with on Sundays at the Conran Shop, the lover who would sell his Ducati and buy a Volvo. Having declared a passion for his wildness, she had sought from the beginning to tame him. He was happy to cook for her, make her laugh, sing to her, and make love to her as no one ever had; but he knew he could never dissolve his personality to silence the strong political opinions he held, which always led to violent arguments with her mindless girlfriends and their docile partners. Ultimately he couldn't inhabit her safe — and in his view, bland — world. He was committed to experience life, whatever the cost.

He flipped the card over. It was the Great Rose Window at Chartres. His mother had painted it often, from inside, from out. She loved the light through the glass — the way it almost stung your eyes with its brilliance, penetrating the gloom.

He toyed with his cell phone for a moment. It was now charged and, without taking his eyes from the image on the card, he texted his brother.

Have at last invaded Normandy! U've been here l8tly? Sailing from Caen 23:15 tonight. Will call you B4. Much to ask U. W

In one smooth motion he slid into his leather jacket, pocketed the phone, and secreted the postcard against his chest, right next to the treasured document that had sent him spinning into Italy for the summer on a frantic research quest. He had started assembling some of the answers he'd come looking for, but a continuum of questions seemed to be opening up even now around him, and a sense of mystery deepened. He stepped into dusty boots and swiftly closed the house, depositing the key in its hiding place. He didn't even chamois down the bike, just pulled on his helmet, took his gloves from the tank bag, and swung into the saddle. He'd need fuel for the forty or so miles to Chartres.

Copyright © 2008 by Titania Hardie

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 28 )
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(2)

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(7)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Has potential, but in the end a disappointing read

    The Rose Labyrinth came to me as a gift and after examining the front and back cover and then opening it to find the clue sheets, I was excited to read it! The story promises to be a thriller that spans several centuries with a mystery handed down through several generations via a parchment and a key. I felt the book started out slow, taking its time to get to the point of the story and once there, I expected it to take off, spinning me into a web of danger and excitement. I was disappointed. Instead, the author delves deep into the world of symbolism, drawing from Dante, Shakespeare and Greek literature. If the reader is not familiar with the 1500's and the mindset of the era or if there is little knowledge of symbolism, they will soon find themselves lost in a twisting turning labyrinth of word play, losing the thread of the story. This book takes work to read. There is no sitting down and just reading this through. The connections and threads the story follows are confusing and twisting, jumping from the 16th century to current times and back. The pamphlet of clues that are included with the book are vague at best and confusing and mind numbing at worst. Most of these clues are not even addressed in the book and those that are, are not referenced well so I could find them in the pamphlet when I needed them. The book's plot had promise, however the author went too deep for the average reader. There was more work than I wanted to put into it. I did read it through and found the ending to be a predictable let down.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 19, 2008

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    I Also Recommend:

    Shakespeare & an Elizabethan Mystery

    This is one of those books that makes you want to run away and do academic research. A well researched and well written story. It kept me reading into the early hours of the morning. An interesting twist is that you get the packet of clues before the characters and get the chance of solving the mystery before they do. A nice twist.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 2, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Bogged down in its own details.

    I don't even know where to begin with this one. A woman named Lucy needs a heart transplant, which she gets. She then becomes involved with her doctor, Alex. Somewhere along the way they're pulled into a mystery that involves Alex's brother, Will, John Dee (circa the original Queen Elizabeth's time), riddles, roses, labyrinths in churches, angels, Shakespeare, and the Rapture. If you can make sense of the plot and it's circumnavigations, then by all means, have at it, my friends. For me, it was way too much. The riddles on the papers that Lucy and Alex find have much potential, but are SO numerous the reader is inundated trying to figure them out. Eventually they become so overwhelming you start skipping over the details to just get to the meat of it all. With all the clues and mystery there should be a grand finale at the end, but it's over so quickly it's as though it was all a dream and the reader just woke up to a hollow sensation that none of it is real.

    A wonderful effort, brilliant idea, but for me, The Rose Labyrinth was completed mired down in it's own mystery.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 22, 2011

    Don't bother.

    This was without question, the WORST book I have ever opened! As the other reviewers stated, the story was plodding and the coincidences and connections were ridiculous (and I am familiar with medieval and greek literature) It took everything I had to finish (but I did finish unfortunately for me). It felt like there was more than one author as the writing style changed after the first part of the book, I am amazed that an editor allowed this to be published!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2009

    DaVinci Code It's NOT

    As other reviewers, the beginning of this book is wonderful, but I strained to complete it. There are some wonderful descriptions and passages but overall this book was tiresome to finish. I did so to find out what happens to the main characters (whom you will enjoy). There needed to be better editing here; the concept is intriguing but I truly wish I had had the courage to quit while I was ahead.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 6, 2009

    Promising Start, Disappointing Finish

    Titania Hardie should stick to witchcraft/spell books. She began her story with interesting and promising characters. She had a good opening set in France and England. As the book went on, though, she began to get more militant with many of the characters. Instead of focusing on the very interesting time shifts and possibilities with the initial story, she allowed a minor character, Simon, to go on a overlong, boring political diatribe. If a reader wants that, all they have to do in this country is read the paper.

    I wanted a story, an escape. Lucy and Alex seemed to offer this, along with the associations with Dr. John Dee, but Hardie didn't fulfill her promise. I kept waiting for a conclusion to the other threads, but they never really materialized.

    The ridiculous pad of "puzzle" pieces was annoying as well. You could put it together quite easily if you paid attention, but once you removed each sheet from the pad you had a loose set of 34 pages (significant number) to deal with in the cover. It may be fashionable to do these kind of books, but it is annoying to deal with as a reader.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 8, 2009

    Satisfying :D

    Although I am currently still reading this book it is very intresting so far. (I am currently on pg.212/384) Some of the subjects bought up in this book really make you want to look up and research them. I have enjoyed the book so far, and I hope the rest will be as good as the rest.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2009

    Exhausting

    I can sum up one word for this book: exhausting. I'm a huge fan of books that challenge a reader's mental stamina but this book was just too much. I got tired of the "coincidences" of number 34, got tired of the page after page of dialogue of characters trying to figure out clues that ultimately didn't mean that much. I found myself two chapters from the end, so tired of the effort the author was obviously putting into making it suspensful that I just wanted to quit. And for all the fuss of this clue and that clue and the chase, it just wasn't a big deal. For as much mental energy as the author plainly evoked in this work, I wish there had been a more meaningful and poignant ending with better "past ghosts" characters for the plot line. I just came away feeling like I'd wasted my time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2013

    meh...

    really well-researched. unfortunately, it's presented in an unengaging and very preachy manner - really could have been a good book if less time had been spent on heavy-handed pontificating and more on the plot.

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  • Posted March 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Better Concept Than Story

    The Rose Labrynth tried it's best to thrill me with puzzles to solve and mysteries to decode, but was an anticlimatic read. I spent maybe three hours trying to figure out how to put together the puzzle, then I can't say how long reading the backs of the cards to interpret how each card related to the story. The cards did not add to my enjoyment of the story. I found that there wasn't much to interpret that would add any more insight to the characters or the action. The cards felt more like a gimmic than a companion to the action. What was left was pretty much a run of the mill mystery that read like the Harlequin Romance edition of The Da Vinci Code. Not what I expected.

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  • Posted March 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    What are the cards for?

    It seemed like a very original idea and I was excited about reading something that seemed so different. I figured the novel would guide you on how to use the cards and ultimately solve the riddle, but it never does. I never figured out what you really needed them for. You can read the book from start to finish without ever even taking the cards out. The are so many clues and numbers and coincidences that you end up getting lost no matter how hard you try to follow the story. It´s exhausting! The book should have some kind of reading companion or guide to help you figure out the use of the cards and really experience the book as the author meant it, or no cards at all!! Could´ve been great, engaging and really interesting.... it´s not.

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  • Posted February 9, 2009

    Too much

    While I was originally very excited about the concept I found that the story was a bit hard to follow and I still have not had a chance to lay out all of the cards that go along with the riddle. It is also a little confusing as to what you are to do with the cards and how you are to figure out the order to put them in. I felt that I needed a how to guide to go along with the novel.

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  • Posted February 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Recommended to anyone that loves historical fiction with a dable of religion.

    Wonderfully exquisit descriptions and historical information. Great riddles and brain teasers. The book is engaging to read and to solve the parchment puzzles that are included with the book. I was originally drawn to the book by its unique encasement and found the story to be delightful. The ending is a little soft but the journey is well worth the investment.

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    Posted June 15, 2011

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    Posted September 28, 2009

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    Posted December 27, 2008

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    Posted April 1, 2012

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    Posted May 8, 2011

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