My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I read this book years ago, and decided that lockdown was a perfect time to read it again. I couldn't remember a lot about it, or the lacklustre TV adaptation starring William Hurt.
The book opened in 2005, with the discovery of two skeletons during an archaeological dig, by one of the main heroines, Alice Tanner. What followed felt a bit like a combination of Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" and Indiana Jones; it felt a little confusing at times, and involved what seemed to be a freemasons-type secret society trying to get their hands on a stone Alice had found, bearing a labyrinth symbol. I did find it hard going at times, particularly when I found myself reading several pages of exposition and back-story.
The narrative was interspersed with flashbacks to 13th Century France, which I found to be more enjoyable, particularly as the author painted a vivid picture of the characters' environs, with levels of detail similar to those that I've seen in Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" and George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" saga. The main character, Alaïs, discovered a man with his throat slit at the start, setting off a chain of events, mostly revolving around her father having to protect a trilogy of books (the McGuffin of the entire story).
It appeared that the story had been well-researched, and it involved burning of supposed heretics by "inquisitors", which I understand was common in the middle ages, and also a siege upon Carcasonne by crusaders. The plot also involved Alaïs' husband having a secret affair with her sister Oriane, who was also one of the main villains, as she seemed to be trying to find the books to suit her own agenda.
This book was almost 700 pages long, so felt quite daunting, but I was able to get through relatively fast; I wouldn't describe it as an absolute masterpiece, but it was a lot better than the TV adaptation that I mentioned, and there was a neat twist at the end that introduced fantasy elements into the plot. That said, I have read that this is the first part of a series, and I probably wouldn't attempt to read any of the other titles.
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