Blurb (as on Goodreads):
Bringing sixteenth-century Languedoc vividly to life, Kate Mosse’s The Burning Chambers is a gripping story of love and betrayal, mysteries and secrets; of war and adventure, conspiracies and divided loyalties . . .
Carcassonne 1562: Nineteen-year-old Minou Joubert receives an anonymous letter at her father’s bookshop. Sealed with a distinctive family crest, it contains just five words: SHE KNOWS THAT YOU LIVE.
But before Minou can decipher the mysterious message, a chance encounter with a young Huguenot convert, Piet Reydon, changes her destiny forever. For Piet has a dangerous mission of his own, and he will need Minou’s help if he is to get out of La Cité alive.
Toulouse: As the religious divide deepens in the Midi, and old friends become enemies, Minou and Piet both find themselves trapped in Toulouse, facing new dangers as sectarian tensions ignite across the city, the battle-lines are drawn in blood and the conspiracy darkens further.
Meanwhile, as a long-hidden document threatens to resurface, the mistress of Puivert is obsessed with uncovering its secret and strengthening her power . . .
‘The Burning Chambers’ by Kate Mosse came as a surprise to me because of the absence of a supernatural element. Mosse’s stories are usually characterized as gothic, with a distinctly dark and haunting atmosphere. But ‘The Burning Chambers’ shows a different story and I am in love with the author once again.
The plot has two major protagonists- Minou and Piet. Set amidst the war between Catholics and Protestants during The Roman Empire (the 1500s), it is also about their individual lives and their struggles.
France has chaos all around. The Catholics and the Protestants are craving for freedom- the oppressor and the oppressed (in this case). Weapons are being smuggled as war looks inevitable. Minou Joubert, the daughter of a bookseller, receives a mysterious letter that read “SHE KNOWS THAT YOU LIVE”, but she ignores it considering it to be a prank. Piet- a Huguenot is in hiding and is silently plotting his revenge against the Catholic monarch (well, it is safe to say he has his reasons). Another wealthy woman is looking for a will that could make her richer and a priest is looking for ways to climb the ranks of the church.
Mosse captures the turmoil in the city in a very delicate manner. The rising tension between the two sects and the subsequent riots are brilliantly captured through words. The story has been written from a neutral perspective and the plot is gripping, with secrets lurking at every corner. The writing certainly has a hint of thrill throughout, even though it gets very slow at times.
The slow pace also helps us to know the characters better. While each character has a distinct past, it is difficult to ascertain who is loyal and who will eventually betray their master. Betrayal, greed, and ambition are recurring themes throughout the plot. And within all that is a love- so pure and honest, it filled me with joy.
The language of the book is also a novel experience as it has words from old-school French as well as the modern version
‘The Burning Chambers’ by Kate Mosse is a historical fiction that is tormenting and very atmospheric. It is a story of wars, betrayals, love, and family. An extremely well-put book that is the first in a series of books.