Labyrinth is a straightforward, plot-driven story. Review by Violet Kane

Book Cover

In Print
Labyrinth by Kate Mosse is tailored for the bestsellers chart, and is being marketed as the next phenomenon in the Da Vinci Code genre. Readers who enjoy character-driven fiction likely don't need to read further.

This novel opens with the first main character, Alice Tanner, as she is concluding her last day on an archeological dig in France and happens upon a discovery. In a secluded cave, she finds two skeletons, a ring, a drawing of a labyrinth pattern and other artifacts. After an accident in the cave, the police show up to investigate. To the surprise of the supervisors on the dig, the police declare it a potential murder scene, in light of the skeletons, and confiscate all of their findings. The ring, however, is missing by the time the police investigate and Alice is under suspicion. When she is questioned by the authorities, she realizes that there is more to this discovery than she expected. Meanwhile, the novel alternates roughly chapter-by-chapter to the second main character, a young woman by the name of Alais, living in early thirteenth century France. The atmosphere is tense, with the promise of violent crusades and punishment of heretics. Despite the danger, Alais's father, the steward of a prominent nobleman, reveals to his daughter that he is the guardian of one of three secret books containing the secrets of the Grail, kept safe by inter-faith guardians. Alais agrees to help her father despite the danger of being deemed a heretic, a danger that may come from a source closer than she expects.

Book Cover

On Audio
This book should carry a lot of appeal for many readers. As I mentioned above, it is well-fashioned to capitalize upon a post-Da Vinci Code audience with its story of a secret society guarding esoteric texts from the medieval Catholic church, and contemporary opponents, who seek its destruction and power. It is part Indiana Jones-style adventure, part historical fiction, part mystery—and when some of the professed truths of the secret society prove real in the end, part fantasy. Beyond the novelty of this mix of genres, there is nothing innovative about this book. It is ultimately plot-driven, the story advanced by the events that propel the story forward, the "destiny" that these women meet. Any novel where "destiny" is intoned for the main character—and ends up proving true—has little hope for unique character conflict in my experience. Indeed, the modern-day protagonist, Alice Tanner receives only "bestseller" characterization—in other words, throwaway details about personal life or aesthetic tastes that serve only to populate the character's life in between the big events of the story. The events, the "destiny" of the story all "happen to" this character. The characterization of Alais is more tied up in her conflict, as she is driven to protect the secret texts through devotion to her family. But her choices are predictable; her character is the standard noble and headstrong woman who has seen many years of overuse. The forward moving plot may be something of a page-turner, it is also quite predictable and at times clichéd—a medieval version of the "It's not her you want, it's me" moment even surfaces when Alais confronts the villain who holds her daughter hostage.

While I am sure this book will find many fans among the "beach read" public this summer, I doubt that readers looking for greater depth will find much to recommend it.


Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of ARWZ.com. She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.