Labyrinth – Kate Mosse
Originally published in 2005
In the summer of 2005, Alice Tanner arrives in France for a working holiday at an archaeological dig in the French Pyrenees. Eager to move on from a recent break-up and needing to settle an unexpected bequest from an estranged relative, Alice has easy explanations for how she ended up at the dig – but not for how she knew to find the cave. The discovery of two bodies and a strange stone ring brings ancient secrets to the surface, setting off a chain of events that go back eight hundred years to another girl, another summer, in the city of Carcassonne on the eve of war.
When I declared my intention to read more historical fiction in 2015, my wonderful mother took notice. Labyrinth was part of my history-themed Christmas and when I caught some of the TV adaptation, I was interested enough to bump the book up the list. It’s thick but easy to read, and the switches between past and present were well handled, though the parallel plots meant some repetition and the romantic elements did not convince me. Near the end, there were too many info-dumps, reducing the emotional impact, and the resolution required a lot of handwavery. (Spoiler: I also wanted more moral grey from Oriane, whose legitimate grievances against her father and husband were quickly brushed aside. She had good reason to resent Aläis. I wanted to see the sisters work through that and am very disappointed it didn’t happen.) Labyrinth needed more nuance, but it is a loving exploration of a time and place in history that deserve remembrance.