Labyrinth - Kate Mosse This reads far too much like a The Da Vinci Code wannabe, dealing with a Grail Quest set in France and involving a Secret Society and a gal threatened by a thuggish cult. This gets one star more than Dan Brown's book because it's better written and more historically accurate--or given I'm no expert, at least more historically plausible. It's still a mediocre book at best, way overlong and overwritten. I haven't seen so much simile abuse since Raymond Chandler. Here's a typical sentence from early on: Then a drop of blood splashes onto her bare leg, exploding like a firework in the sky on Guy Fawkes night. Uhm... doesn't work for me, and yes, I know what Guy Fawkes night is. It's two books really, with linked female protagonists. The present tense prologue is set at an archeological dig in Southern France, where Alice Tanner, breaking every rule of good sense and archeological guidelines, stumbles upon an 800-year-old find in a cave. She picks up a ring near two skeletons inscribed with a labyrinth design. This particular time-frame runs along the usual popular thriller lines. Eye-rollingly cliched, and it's not a good thing when pages in, I want to slap our heroine silly. We then move to 1209 and seventeen-year-old Alais du Mas, who lives in Southern France in the land of the Languedoc. This strand is historical fiction, dealing with the Cathars and the Albigensian Crusade. The Cathars were a sect the Roman Catholic Church considered heretical and had spread throughout Southern France until the Pope called a crusade to eradicate them. Soon that same labyrinth design will figure in the medieval timeline. I wish Mosse had kept strictly to the medieval part of the tale, since I did find the Cathars inherently interesting, and the author certainly does give us a wealth of historical detail. The problem is that really good historical fiction gives me a real sense of an alien mindset, of just how different people thought then, while at the same time fleshing out characters in a way that's complex and human. Mosse doesn't do this and none of the characters ever seemed rounded and real to me. I did find Alais less annoying than her present day counterpart. It helps that when we meet her she's almost half the age of Alice at a time where women's roles were much more proscribed, so I was willing to give her more slack, but she increasingly struck me as "Mary Sue." Also, a favorite work of fiction, Robert Shea's All Things Are Lights deals with the Albigensian Crusade, and I felt this book suffered in comparison. The whole reincarnation schtick also didn't work for me. I have a friend who loves such themes in fiction, but it has to be done really, really well for me not to find it eye-rolling. This wasn't done really, really well.