The uniforms were different in each age, the battle colors under which they marched changing as the centuries marched on. Boots and guns had replaced banners and horses, but the story was the same.
Men with black hearts. With black souls.
Citadel is the third book in Kate Mosse’s Languedoc trilogy, but it can be read as a standalone novel. In fact, I have not read the previous installments (Labyrinth and Sepulchre) and didn’t even realize it was part of a trilogy until it arrived in the mail, and I was able to follow it just fine. However, there is one character that makes an appearance in all three novels, and the supernatural aspect of the story might best be understood by reading them in order.
The novel is set in the fortified town of Carcassonne in southern France. Much of the book takes place during World War II, specifically 1942-1944, and centers on a network of female Resistance fighters. Mosse was inspired by a plaque commemorating the deaths of several Resistance members, including two unknown women, who were executed by the fleeing Nazis at Baudrigues in August 1944. Interwoven with the fictionalized story of these courageous women, led by 18-year-old Sandrine Vidal, is the story of a 4th century monk seeking refuge in the town, carrying with him a Codex the Church wanted destroyed to stifle the power of its words.
The story of the monk may not have been necessary, but it was interesting to see how Mosse connected it to events occurring more than a thousand years later, with a supernatural aspect that goes beyond the typical wartime story of resistance. It certainly helps to give readers a sense of the lengthy history of the town, and in a sense, Carcassonne itself was a leading character. Mosse’s descriptions of the town emphasize its age and its beauty and make it come to life in readers’ minds.
Citadel started off slow, but that helped in a way to further the character development. And there are a lot of characters, making it a bit difficult to follow at times, especially at first, but that’s to be expected in a detailed story about a Resistance network. Though not all of the characters are memorable, I am not likely to forget the courage and bravery they symbolized. It was nice to see women and their accomplishments in the Resistance take center stage.
At about 700 pages, Citadel isn’t a very portable book (and if you try to read it in bed, try not to let if fall on your head while you doze off, like I did), but it’s worth the extra time and effort. Mosse brings to life the women and men who refused to stand still when France fell to the Nazis, and she does this in the context of a coming-of-age story, as readers watch Sandrine fall in love and transform from a somewhat sheltered girl into a take-charge woman. I was fascinated with the setting as well, and at some point — when I’ve rested and recovered and can once again tackle a lengthy novel — I hope to read the first two books in the trilogy.
Thanks to France Book Tours for having me on the Citadel tour. To follow the tour, click the banner below.
From the internationally bestselling author of Labyrinth and Sepulchre comes a thrilling novel, set in the South of France during World War II, that interweaves history and legend, love and conflict, passion and adventure, bringing to life brave women of the French Resistance and a secret they must protect from the Nazis. In Carcassonne, a colorful historic village nestled deep in the Pyrenees, a group of courageous and determined operatives are engaged in a lethal battle. Like their ancestors who fought to protect their land from Northern invaders seven hundred years before, these women — codenamed Citadel — fight to liberate their home from the Germans.
But smuggling refugees over the mountains into neutral territory and sabotaging their Nazi occupiers is only part of their mission. These members of the resistance must also protect an ancient secret that, if discovered by the enemy, could change the course of history.
A superb blend of rugged action and haunting mystery based on real-life figures, Citadel is a vivid and richly atmospheric story of a group of heroic women who dared the odds to survive.
About the author:
Kate Mosse is the multimillion selling author of four works of nonfiction, three plays, one volume of short stories and six novels, including the New York Times bestselling Labyrinth and Sepulchre. A popular presenter for BBC television and radio in the UK, she is also cofounder and chair of the prestigious Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize) and a member of the board of the National Theatre of Great Britain. In 2013, she was named as one of the Top 100 most influential people in British publishing and also awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to literature. She divides her time between England and Carcassonne, France.
Disclosure: I received Citadel from William Morrow for review.
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