LABYRINTH by Kate Mosse

This literary historical/time-travel novel is set in medieval and modern-day France. Amateur archeologist Alice Tanner is working on a dig in the Pyrenees when she unearths a hidden cave containing an altar, human remains, and a mysterious ring that may hide the key to the Holy Grail. The quest draws her back to the bloody Crusades of twelfth-century France and another young scholar, an herbalist named Alais, whose pursuit of the truth oddly mirrors her successor’s. But Alice is not the only historian who seeks the Grail, and her rivals will kill to obtain it. I’ve been eyeing this one on the bookstore shelves for a while, and now I wish I’d read it sooner! As a general rule, I sometimes don’t enjoy parallel narratives with chronological breaks that skip backward and forward in time. In addition, I’m often not a huge fan of first person point of view, nor—gasp!—the occasional present tense narration. But, despite all these factors, I lost myself in this book. The relatively unknown historical setting, featuring the horrific Crusade against the Albigensian heresy in France, is bloody but fascinating, and the contemporary villains pursuing the Grail are brilliant and complex. The narrative thread is strong and easy to follow despite the breaks in chronology, while Alice/Alais is a highly likable and resourceful heroine. A powerful romantic subplot gave me another reason to love the story. For you romance readers out there, never fear—a happily-ever-after ending is guaranteed. I recommend this beautiful, complicated, and unconventional story to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, religious mysteries like those featured in Dan Brown’s THE DA VINCI CODE, and a certain literary lyricism in their prose. Let me know what you think about this one.

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