I have a strange relationship with books by Kate Mosse. On the one hand, I love the atmosphere and descriptive qualities of her work — it transports you to the south of France in vivid prose; filled with the sights, sounds and smells of another time and place. She clearly loves the history and ambience of the Languedoc, and every page is filled with sensory detail.
On the other hand, Mosse’s plots are slow and rambling, packed full of extraneous details and unnecessary subplots. Often chapters can go by where nothing particularly interesting or important happens, and with a little ruthless editing I’m sure each book’s length could be halved.
So is the way her story told worth the story itself? Well, everyone’s going to have a different opinion on that, but for what it’s worth, I enjoy Mosse’s books. The chapters are short, the cover art is beautiful, and her premises intriguing. Throw in female protagonists, a historical backdrop, and a hint of mysticism, and you’ve got enjoyable enough holiday reads.
Citadel is the third book in what is unofficially known as the LANGUEDOC TRILOGY; preceded by Labyrinth and Sepulchre, and which (strangely enough) manages to be both a prequel and a sequel. Each previous novel has two interconnected plotlines, one set in the past and one in the present. This one bucks the trend a little by setting the major storyline in the 1940s, during WWII. This means that most of the story takes place well after the stories of Alais and Leonie, but before Alice and Meredith; all of whom appear in the earlier books.
Sandrine Vidal is a young woman drawn into the Resistance in Carcassonne during the Second World War. She and other like-minded girls are part of a network known as Citadel, who carry out certain acts of sabotage to disrupt the German Occupation. But she unexpectedly becomes drawn into the mystery of what’s known as the Codex; an ancient manuscript that’s said to be hidden in the Pyrenean mountains, considered heretical by the church but which could hold invaluable information to assist the war effort.
If you’re familiar with the previous books, you’ll enjoy what Mosse offers here in Citadel. There are familiar names, locations and characters, such as Leo Authie and Audric Baillard, and plenty of other “Easter eggs” that connect this book to the trilogy. It contains what is perhaps Mosse’s best plot, for although it meanders a little (or a lot), there’s a greater sense of beginning, build-up and climactic finish that’s lacking from the last two books.
Sandrine makes for a good heroine: determined, clear-headed and brave, backed up by a strong cast and a genuinely scary villain. The Codex is a more interesting MacGuffin than Mosse’s previous use of the Holy Grail and tarot cards, with MUCH more satisfying payoff than what she’s previously delivered.
Long story short; if you like Mosse’s previous books, then Citadel is more of the (improved) same. People with no foreknowledge of her work may be a little confused at times (as with Baillard’s implied immortality) but may enjoy it on its own terms as a WWII story with a dash of Biblical mysticism.
This is so cool! I’m glad to hear that it’s like an improved version of the first two. I loved the first one, liked the second one. I’ve been keeping the third one for a few years now, because I’m always wary of finishing series because there’s nothing left when you do. I should move this one up on my list! Thanks for the review.