"Susanne Dunlap’s sweeping saga captivates readers’ imaginations from the first page, plunging them back into the Languedoc region of France in the 13th Century. Her impeccable research allows her three spirited protagonists to live, love, fight and breathe life into the dangerous period of rebellion and inquisition, when the Cathars struggled to hold on to their culture and old faith against the power of the Pope. A compelling read for lovers of adventure and romance." —Anne Easter Smith, author of A Rose for the Crown, Daughter of York, Royal Mistress
"Dunlap (The Academie, 2012, etc.) breathes life into the distant 13th-century setting by providing many everyday, textural details, such as the uncomfortable realities of wearing jousting armor. Poetry and music are as essential to the plot as warfare, with engaging glimpses of trobairitz (female troubadours). . . . A complex, absorbing, and dramatic start to a planned series." – Kirkus Reviews
“Susanne Dunlap had written an absolutely fascinating adventure of two orphans, born of the heretical Cathar faith in the rugged land of the Languedoc in 13th century France, who are separated suddenly when young. As they grow up to be a gentle young man and a beautiful young woman, they must undergo dangerous journeys through the world of religious persecution to survive and find each other again. The author is both a superb story teller and a rich historian of the period. Its customs and language, castles, troubadours, mountains, thick forests, villages, monasteries, and vineyards come vividly to life as Azemar and Azalaïs find themselves drawn into a path that will shape history.” – Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude and Camille: a novel of Monet.
“This novel casts a spell with its rich setting of 13th century France, and I was immediately caught up in the lives of the main characters, particularly Azalais, an orphan struggling to survive in the Languedoc countryside who uses her intelligence to reach for a potentially dazzling future. Readers who love history will be fascinated by the context of the period's dangerous conflicts in religion and secular power. And those who enjoy suspense will be riveted by the mystery contained in a parchment. In its mix of page-turning thriller with well researched historical novel, it draws comparison to the finely crafted work of Kate Mosse and Ariana Franklin.” – Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Blue and the Joanna Stafford trilogy
“Susanne Dunlap’s Listen to the Wind is an engaging work of historical fiction replete with sympathetic characters. The novel is set in thirteenth-century Languedoc, a time when families are torn apart by religious persecution….The fortitude and ingenuity of her characters helps them adapt to all manner of circumstances, and the result is an engaging tale of escape, secrets, and mental toughness. For those looking for a smartly written captivating read, I highly recommend this first book in the Orphans of Tolosa trilogy.” – Amy M. Hawes, Book Club Babble
In this historical novel, set in the Languedoc area of France, two young orphans try to forge their own destinies amid many dangers.
In tumultuous 13th-century France, political ambitions and crusades against heretics—presumably Cathars, although the term is never used—have brought much warfare and upheaval. When the orphaned Azalaïs, a girl, and Azemar, a boy, flee charges of witchcraft, they hastily agree to split up and meet in Bésiers. A kindly forest anchorite helps Azalaïs disguise herself as a boy, and over several years the recluse teaches her herbal medicine, reading, writing, and Latin. But Azalaïs must go on the run again when she makes an unexpected enemy, and she finds shelter with Domna Jordane de la Moux d'Aniort, who takes Azalaïs into her household. Jordane's wealthy father is planning her daughter's marriage to a French-allied noble, but she's in love with a rebellious knight named Raimon de Berenger. After finding out about Azalaïs' true sex, Jordane insists that the young woman disguise herself and take her own place as the noble's bride, while Jordane pursues Raimon. The disguised Azalaïs must prove herself in a perilous situation that she doesn't fully understand. Meanwhile, the real Azemar finds a patron and receives training in commerce and war. It's nine years before the two orphans briefly find each other again. In this well-researched novel, Dunlap (The Academie, 2012, etc.) breathes life into the distant 13th-century setting by providing many everyday, textural details, such as the uncomfortable realities of wearing jousting armor. Poetry and music are as essential to the plot as warfare, with engaging glimpses of trobairitz (female troubadours). Necessary exposition is well-integrated into the story, although the closing author's note would likely have worked better as a preface, and a glossary would have been useful. The characters are generally believable, although Jordane is implausibly headstrong for a young woman of her era and Raimon doesn't seem to be worth so much plotting and difficulty.
A complex, absorbing, and dramatic start to a planned series.