People think that when they’ve read the Da Vinci Code, all other Grail mysteries will pale in comparison. Surprisingly, the Labyrinth holds up its own quite well, probably because of the difference between the two books.
I love the fact that Labyrinth is a female grail adventure, weaving a story between two female characters that live 800 years apart. Just recently Janeh and I were discussing the difference between male and female authors, and how they focused on different things (males plot driven, females detail-driven), and this novel is a good example.
In present day (2005), Alice Tanner stumbles into a hidden cave while on an archeological dig in the mountains of southwest France. She discovers two skeletons and a labyrinth pattern engraved on the wall and on a ring, which triggers visions of the past and propels her into a dangerous race against those who want the mystery of the cave for themselves.
This narrative alternates with the story of Alaïs, in the year 1209, a plucky 17-year-old living in the French city of Carcassone, a sort of free country (under tolerant Cathar Christians) that welcomes all religions, that has been declared heretical by the Catholic Church. The Crusaders siege the city, and Alaïs’s father, entrusts her with a book that is part of a sacred trilogy connected to the Holy Grail, but evil forces, including her sister Oriane, are out to get this sacred book for their own ends.
The stories are interwoven, with events mirrored in different situations experienced by the two women in their time.
There are some gory bits, surprising from a woman writer, and a lot of adventure — a medieval battle and a modern-day chase, all in one book! There’s even a love story, although I must commend how Mosse integrated into the story without it seeming contrived.
Mosse also skillfully spins out her yarn bit by bit, disclosing details a bit at a time, never fully revealing anything until the end of the novel, making it a page-turner to the very end.
Finally, I love her take on the Grail mystery, because it’s a refreshing point of view, a unique take on the Grail legend (ergo, without the conspiracy spin: she doesn’t claim it’s the truth, unlike Dan Brown, although she does come up with a lot of daring premises) that makes it an extraordinary read.
My copy: originally a mass market paperback, upgraded into a hardcover with dustjacket, mooched from the US
My rating: 5/5 stars
photo courtesy of http://hopeeternal.files.wordpress.com/2007/07/mosse-kate-labyrinth.jpg