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The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse

Kate Mosse is best known for The Languedoc Trilogy, which has sold more than 5 million copies in 38 languages. Her new book, The Burning Chambers, is another enthralling read, that brings sixteenth-century Languedoc vividly to life.

Carcassonne 1562: Nineteen-year-old Minou Joubert’s beloved mother died five years earlier, but now she is concerned about her father Bernard, who has come back from his winter travels a changed man, not willing to leave the house. She is left to run her father’s bookshop and care for her younger siblings, thirteen-year-old brother Aimeric, and her young sister Alis. But then she receives an anonymous letter, sealed with a distinctive family crest, with the cryptic words SHE KNOWS THAT YOU LIVE.

But before Minou can think further about the mysterious message, she meets by chance Piet Reydon, a young Huguenot Protestant convert, who will change her life forever. Not long after their first meeting, Minou and Piet find themselves trapped in Toulouse as religious hatred and intolerance reaches fever pitch, and thousands are slaughtered during the ensuing fighting. Although Minou and Reydon are on the opposite side of the religious divide, their growing affection for each other brings them together.

Meanwhile, Minou doesn’t know about the secrets her family has hidden from her, or that the mistress of Puivert is obsessed with finding her, and her intentions are murderous. She goes as far as kidnapping Minou's younger sister Alis as bait.

The Burning Chambers is a powerful read that grips from the opening pages. It captures a time of war and conspiracies, mysteries and secrets – but most of all it is an engaging story of love despite all the odds. The characters are memorable, and I especially enjoyed learning more about Minou, an admirable, thoughtful and brave young woman. As Kate Mosse says in her introduction, ‘The characters and their families, unless otherwise specified, are imagined, though inspired by the sort of people who might have lived. Ordinary women and men, struggling to live, love and survive against a backdrop of religious war and displacement. Some things do not change.’

While this is a historical novel, the themes are age-old but feel contemporary in many ways. The Burning Chambers is a Romeo and Juliet tale to treasure, and I can’t wait to read the next instalment in the series.

Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Macmillan, RRP $37.99


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