The Burning Chambers (The Burning Chambers, #1)
France, 1562: Nineteen-year-old Minou Joubert receives an anonymous letter at her father’s bookshop. Sealed with a distinctive family crest, it contains just five words: SHE KNOWS THAT YOU LIVE.
But before Minou can decipher the mysterious message, a chance encounter with a young Huguenot convert, Piet Reydon, changes her destiny forever. For Piet has a dangerous mission of his own, and he will need Minou’s help if he is to stay alive.
As the religious divide deepens, and old friends become enemies, Minou and Piet both find themselves trapped in Toulouse, facing new dangers as tensions ignite across the city.
All the while, the shadowy mistress of Puivert Château—obsessed with uncovering the secrets of a long-hidden document—strengthens her power and waits for the perfect time to strike...
Author: Kate Mosse | Publisher: Minotaur Books
Thank you to NetGalley and Minotaur for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. It will be published in the US June 18th!
The Burning Chambers was an entertaining read that managed to keep all ~600 pages engaging, no small feat. Overall, I found the writing a tiny bit less mature (some telling, not showing etc), but still a completely worthwhile read. The author had the bravery to touch on some very heavy, important topics from a character-development perspective as well, which is always appreciated.
19-year-old Minou Joubert lives in a divided region of France in the late 1500s; Catholics firmly on one side of the conflict, and Huguenots firmly on the other. And then there are people like her family, who technically belong to one side but still remain open-minded about the other. War and violence ebb and flow.
Her father has been mysteriously depressed ever since he returned home from his most recent travels, refusing to leave the house or do much of anything. So it falls to Minou to run their family bookshop and keep them afloat. One day, a mysterious note shows up addressed specifically to her ("She knows that you live") and shortly after, a man comes calling for her father. But then her father sends her and her younger brother to stay with relatives in the larger city of Toulouse so that her brother can learn from their uncle. Just before they leave, the man who'd called for her father is dead and she encounters Piet, a young Huguenot from Toulouse, in the street. Everything changes.
While she is living in Toulouse, war comes. Blood is shed. And meanwhile, an ancient Catholic relic is missing and a mentally unstable woman miles away wants Minou dead. The ending is suspenseful and satisfyingly complex.
I don't read a lot of historical fiction because I don't really like the genre for the genre's sake; I never loved history in school. I usually only read historical fiction if it also does something else very well, like broaden my understanding of oppressed communities' historical trauma, or tell an exceptional story. You can tell that this book was written for people who love historical fiction because they love history itself and being pulled backward in time. Kate Mosse obviously knows her stuff about this period of history and this region of France! If that also interested me, I think that I would have loved this book more.
Still, I'm not sorry that I took the time to read this one; the story was engaging, the characters were lovable, and the details were delicious. This is a story of family, ambition, tolerance, and love.