Sunday, 13 August 2006
Book Review--Labyrinth by Kate Mosse
I finished reading yet another book about the holy grail. It seems to be one of the favourite topic for most writers. Coming after The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, this book holds on its own. This is Kate Mosse's third novel.
In this elaborate thriller Labyrinth, two women strangly mysteriously linked across eight centuries, take up the search to find the legendary Holy Grail and guard its secrets from those who would use its power for evil ends. Kate Mosse spins an electrifying story of intrigue and hazard, with female characters who don't wait for men to lead. With valour and shrewdness, they plunge headlong into the everlasting search for truth. In this grail quest, women aren't helpless creatures to be rescued by knights in shining armour. They hold on their own, are central to the action, with the capability to change the course of history. The villains, in both eras too, are women. The climactic moments where the good and evil women are face to face and fight it out is very gripping...
Story in a nutshell:
July 1209: in Carcassonne, France, a young girl is given one of the three secret books, by her father which he claims contains the secret of the true Grail. Although Alaïs cannot understand the strange words and symbols hidden within, she memorises them and knows that she must protect it. It takes great sacrifice and lots of faith on her part to keep the secret of the labyrinth safe - a secret that stretches back thousands of years to the deserts of Ancient Egypt . . .
July 2005: Alice Tanner, a British Volunteer, stumbles upon two skeletons during an archaeological dig in the mountains outside Carcassonne. Inside the hidden cave where two skeletons lie crumbling, she experiences an overwhelming sense of malevolence, as well as a creeping understanding and familiarity. She can somehow make sense of the mysterious ancient words carved into the rock. Though she cannot comprehend fully, Alice realises she is trapped in a terrifying sequence of events for which she has no control and her destiny is somehow linked with the fate of the Cathars 800 years before.
Their stories are told in alternating chapters as both take utmost care to hide and protect their secrets. As history unfolds over the centuries, both find themselves entangled in the history and evil that surrounds them. The novel moves between past and present, one life reflecting and mirroring the other. Most of the characters in both eras are mirrored.
As one might expect of a labyrinth, it turns out that there are truths beyond the truths sought. There are twists and turns, memories to be retrieved and reclaimed, lovers' misunderstandings to be reconciled, fragments of the past to be salvaged and old betrayals to be, very satisfyingly, revenged. It has all these and more ingredients for a good novel.
Mosse's love of the location around Carcassonne is clear from her generous descriptions of the city and the surrounding countryside; and her research into the details of the historical facts and language is markedly wide-ranging. The novel does hold attention till the end despite some loose ends.