For those of you hoping I’d be reviewing the David Bowie movie or something along those lines, I’m sorry to disappoint you! No, this is definitely a book.
The novel jumps back and forth between 2005 southern France, and the same location in the 13th century. Alaïs and Alice are the same person living in two entirely different times–Alaïs in the ancient past and Alice in modern France. While volunteering at an archeological dig, Alice discovers artifacts in a cave that launch her on the path toward her destiny–a picture of a labyrinth painted on the cave wall, a stone ring, and the skeletons of two people long-deceased. The story then takes off almost like a Dan Brown novel (a bunch of baddies going after an ancient and mystical secret and leaving a huge trail of bodies that somehow no one really notices), centered around several things, namely the quest for the Grail and the Inquisition in Europe.
In part, it was this that confused me. I didn’t particularly enjoy the novel that much, and now that I think about it, it may have been the fact that I couldn’t pin down a central focus. The jacket text makes it seem as though it’s more about the persecution of a sect known as the Cathars in France in the 13th century, who were considered heretics by the Catholic Church and were hunted down and burned. In reality, this is merely setting for the shadowy, secretly-embarked-upon quest for the Grail, the truth about which is known by a very small group of people. I suppose, though, that there was too much detail about the Cathars, and it got confusing keeping track of who wanted to kill the main characters because they were heretics, and who wanted to kill them because they were the protectors of the Grail. There was too much conflict coming from every side, and it made me go cross-eyed.
It was a decent story, but I didn’t love it. Alaïs and the people in her time were well-written and interesting, but Alice and the modern counterparts of the people from the past were somewhat lame. Alice herself was a bit of a bimbo, and I didn’t really feel her personality matched all of the actions she was required to take. If it had been real life, she would have been the first to give up her secrets and die…just saying. The bad guys, with the exception of maybe one, were also kind of…not scary. There was no moment when I was like, “Oh no! They’ll find the Grail first!” or “Oh no, he’s actually going to kill that dude!” It was more like, “Ok, I know exactly where this is going…” and I ended up being right.
Overall, I thought the premise and the period in history about which Mosse chose to write were interesting and unique. I appreciated that about the novel, at least. But the rest of it–plot, characters, believability–all fell flat for me and made it difficult to get excited about picking up the book and reading more. And those are the most important parts of the books, so that super stinks :/ Sorry guys! Hopefully the next book will be a humdinger! It’s about Doctor Who! How could it not be?