This book is awful. Plain and simple. For someone who spent nearly a decade working in publishing and who built her reputation on championing female authors, Kate Mosse should be ashamed to have published such a sloppily edited book.
The plot is an overly complex take on the grail legend, that is totally different from the Da Vinci Code, because the grail actually has nothing to do with Jesus. Also, the Cathars are involved, except they aren’t, they’re just there, providing A TOTALLY DIFFERENT SETTING for the conspiracy. The story takes place at the time of the Albigensian Crusade in southern France, but also in 2005, contemporaneously with the time of writing, and the narrative flips between them for long enough periods of time for the reader to forget which minor character is which.
The characterisation itself is two-dimensional at best, and the protagonists especially so. They are almost entirely without action throughout the novel, they just react to things happening to them, which doesn’t make anything interesting. Also, there is some strange sort of reincarnation going on that is totally obvious to the reader (come on, their names are Alaïs and Alice!) but is only confirmed at the end.
Being set in Languedoc gives Mosse the opportunity to their in snippets of Occitan, the local language once spoken all around the north west Mediterranean, in an infuriatingly clumsy manner. There is no logic to the phrases used. Some nouns are in Occitan, others are in English. Sometimes there is a translation in the text, sometimes there isn’t. It’s a pointless affectation and it doesn’t work.
I’d be less offended by this if Mosse had been bothered to do her research properly. Oh, it’s mostly okay, with changes made to fit the narrative. I’m fine with that. What I’m not okay with is having a Sephardic Jew speaking Yiddish in 1209, a time when the language was only just emerging in Central and Eastern Europe, and almost certainly wasn’t known by this name. Even worse is the reference to “one of your Christian saints, Francis”. The Franciscan order wasn’t recognised by the papacy until 1211, and Francis of Assisi (probably the first person to bear the name, despite the presence of a character by that name o) didn’t die until 1226. Trivial? Probably, but I didn’t spend two semesters at university studying Francis to put up with this sort of nonsense.
There are other editing issues as well. Characters are introduced as though we should already know them, the amount of removable repetition could cut down the novel by a fair few pages (it’s also far too long at 700 pages), and as I’ve already said, the bloated plot has a lot of space to be streamlined.
Don’t read this. It’s not worth it.