The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse

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It must be death by fire. The burning chambers, the purification of the soul. If her spirit is pure then it will fly to heaven. If it is not, then the Devil will take her. Is it not written that there is a time to weep, and time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance? This is where it ends. In fire and in flame.

The Burning Chambers was an epic wonder! Filled with mystery, intrigue, betrayal, secrets, the Inquisition, religion, romance, torture, persecution and conspiracies – it’s jammed packed with adventure. I effortlessly ripped through it, even though this was a doorstopper of a book! I fell in love as soon as I began reading, honestly, by page 3 I was already all in. There were many incredible and stunning moments where the writing made me pause in awe and wonder.

“As pain embraced him in her arms…” 

“The woman does not pray. She cannot. The history of the injustices done in the name of religion – to her ancestors – surely proves there is no God. For what God would allow so many to die in agony and fear and terror in His name?”

The Burning Chambers take place during the Wars of Religion, France, 1562. The Huguenots vs the Catholics. The Huguenots are disenchanted with the Catholic Church and have broken off to form their own faith. One of the main characters, Piet, is a Huguenot convert and is embroiled in a dangerous mission, one that includes an old friend – now priest – who may or may not be leading a group of inquisitors set on capturing Piet.

“Three hundred and fifty years have passed since St. Dominic preached in the cathedral and –” “Persuaded no one,” Piet interrupted. “And because of his failure, so the burning chambers were born. Faith enforced in the agony of the flames.” “Men are not so backward as in those times. France is not England, France is not Spain. Our Holy Mother Church these days seeks to lead by example.” Piet shook his head. “By breaking a man’s spirit, his bones, to save his soul? I do not care for your theology, Vidal, if it stinks of blood and sulphur and despair.”

There is also Minou – a Catholic girl (unknowingly) embroiled in her own dangerous adventure. It begins when she receives a cryptic and confusing note, “She knows that you live.” This has to do with a secret past being kept from Minou by her father. Piet and Minou meet through harrowing circumstances, yet immediately fall in love. Now, they are trapped in Toulouse as the dangers of a bloody battle over two religious sects is fought. In Toulouse, there are two days marred by death and destruction, with the dead numbering into the thousands.

“Blood and bone and dust, order falling into ruins.”  

“How was it that, in more than three hundred and fifty years, so little had changed? So much suffering, such waste and cruelty. And for what?”

“Ill at ease, Piet stood up again. “You talk as if mankind has learnt the lessons of the past. That we have improved ourselves. I fear the opposite. That human beings have learnt rather to repeat the mistakes of the past, and more vilely. I fear we are sleep-walking towards a new conflict. It is why so many Frenchman… have fled to Amsterdam.”

Isn’t that last quote above a timely statement? Yet it is one that is made here in 1562!

I was captivated by every single moment of this 575+ page tome. There are many layers, stories, perspectives and adventures to be had in The Burning Chambers. I didn’t want to be far from it at any time, and there were times where it felt almost Game of Thrones-esque. This was another book read this summer dealing with the Inquisition, and its descriptions of torture and abuse were no less than those found in Gateway to the Moon. Perhaps even greater detail could be found here in The Burning Chambers.

That’s 2-3 hefty chunksters I’ve read pretty much back-to-back-to-back! But all of them were fantastic and The Burning Chambers is the one to get a 5-star rating from me. So thrilled to find this is the first in a planned trilogy, and that Ms. Mosse has hinted that she is working away on the second in the series. I’m definitely looking forward to read what’s in store for it!

The Burning Chambers was a book read during the time I was doing the #20BooksofSummer challenge, it’s just taken me all this time to write about it. ;-)