Carcassonne, 1562. Minou Joubert receives an anonymous letter at her father’s bookshop. Sealed with a distinctive family crest, it contains just five words: SHE KNOWS THAT YOU LIVE. But before Minou can decipher the mysterious message, a chance encounter with a young Huguenot convert, Piet Reydon, changes her destiny forever. For Piet has a dangerous mission of his own, and he will need Minou’s help if he is to get out of La Cité alive.

I’m a big fan of Mosse’s work (particularly her gothic standalone novel The Taxidermist’s Daughter) and in her latest book she returns to the Languedoc setting she explored so vividly in her previous trilogy (Labyrinth, Sepulchre, Citadel).

Mosse excels at bringing the past to life. The vivid details of the medieval city in Carcassonne and, later, the beauties of Toulouse create a vibrant portrait of two cities on the brink of riot and revolution. Mosse examines the increasing conflicts between Catholics and Huguenots (Protestants), the double-crossing and betrayals taking place against the backdrop of momentous religious change.

This book is not without its flaws. My biggest problem is the romance between Minou and Piet. Mosse has clearly put a lot of thought and care into the creation of this story, and it feels at times as though the romance element was an afterthought. Our two main characters fall in love at first sight and can’t stop thinking about each other – even though they’ve only exchanged a few sentences.

My other problem is one that I have found to be common in Mosse’s work. She seems overly keen to show off her mastery of obscure French languages and likes to drop in words and phrases wherever she can. It makes for an increasingly frustrating reading experience.

Readers unfamiliar with the time period may find it a bit confusing to keep up with everything Mosse throws at the story, but where she excels is not so much with the large-scale political events but how those events impact the everyday lives of ordinary men and women.

Mosse creates a thrilling portrait of life in a country where no one is safe, where everyone is a suspect and even the innocent can be arrested and tortured into confessing. She weaves a series of different storylines together to create a varied and impressive portrait of a country at war with itself.

I would highly recommend this book to historical fiction fans for its incredible setting and Mosse’s ability to inject colour into the past. The Burning Chambers is the first in a new series (a prologue set in 19th century South Africa hints tantalisingly at what is to come) and I will definitely be picking up the sequel when it’s released.