Labyrinth – Kate Mosse

Labyrinth had sat on my shelf for a long time, but for some reason it never stood out, so I kept reading other things. I then spotted that Kate Mosse was talking at the Cheltenham Book Festival, and so decided this was the incentive I needed to finally get round to reading it.

Labyrinth begins with a girl discovering a hidden cave while helping on on archeological dig in the French Pyrenees. The story then flips back to the 13th Century and follows a young girl who is living in the beautiful walled city of Carcassonne, France.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy reading it. The characters failed to engage me and the writing seemed be be of poor quality. I kept thinking of Timeline by Michael Crichton, which managed to make time travel back to feudal France, thrilling, thought-provoking and exciting. This book felt inferior in comparison.

It took a lot of effort for me to get to page 160, when I decided that I couldn’t take it any more. The thought of wading through another 500+ pages of below average writing was just too much for me.

I then went to hear Kate Mosse interviewed by Sandi Toksvig at the Cheltenham Book Festival. It was the best author interview I have ever seen. The two are good friends in real life and their warm friendship came across. Both were enthusiastic, intelligent and witty – I could have listened to them all day! Kate talked about her love for literary fiction and her passion for research – she likes to write really slowly, taking 5 years to complete Labyrinth.

Kate Mosse came across as an amazing woman. She co-founded the Orange prize and was named European Woman of Achievement in 2000 for her contribution to the arts. I have great admiration for her and the passionate discussion inspired me to give Labyrinth another try.

With renewed excitement I picked up Labyrinth again. I managed another 10 pages, before coming to the conclusion that Kate Mosse is a fantastic woman, but not an author I’ll be reading again.

If you’re after an amazing story set in Carcassone, try Timeline!



Did you enjoy Labyrinth?

Do you love Timeline as much as I do?

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  1. FleurFisher says:

    I reached about the same point as you before throwing in the towel. Everything pointed to this being a book I would love, but it just didn’t click. It now sits on the shelf in case it was just the wrong moment, but as you had the same reaction maybe it was the book and not me. Have you read Kate Mosses’s earlier books? Much better!

    1. Jackie says:

      FleurFisher, No I haven’t read any of her other books. In her talk she seemed to make out that her earlier books were terrible, so it is interesting to learn that you thought they were better. I’m still not sure I want to give them a try though!

      1. FleurFisher says:

        They were a little immature maybe, but much more “real” than what came after. Readable but not worth going out of your way for, and there are better books out there!

        1. Jackie says:

          FleurFisher, now you’ve made me want to read them, just so I know what they’re like! I will try to resist!

  2. Melody says:

    I’ve heard mixed reviews about this book and since I’m not really interested with the premise, I didn’t pick this up.

    1. Jackie says:

      Melody, I was interested in the premise, so it is a shame that it didn’t work for me. I think you’ve made the right choice in deciding not to read it.

  3. judealudeI says:

    I felt exactly the same. However i carried on reading but thought the pay off wasn’t worth the struggle. i keep seeing her other books in shops but I dont dare pick them up just in case they are similar.

    1. Jackie says:

      judealudel, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time! I’m pleased to hear that I made the right decision in stopping.

      The covers of her books are beautiful – I am tempted to pick them up, but I’m going to avoid them -there are so many better books out there.

  4. Sandy says:

    For a book that long, there really needs to be a hook to pull you in. Doesn’t sound like this had it. And it seems like you REALLY tried! I am a reader of Crichton…I’ve probably read 80% of his books, but strangely not Timeline. I’ll have to keep my eyes open for that one.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, I love Crichton! I think there are only a couple of his books that I haven’t read (I thought I’d read them all until last week when I went to check!) I’m really looking forward to Pirate Latitudes – only a few weeks to wait now!

  5. Teresa says:

    I haven’t read this despite the raves because the handful negative reviews I’d seen led me to think it was, at best, average. These kinds of time shift books are so popular these days, but so many of them are just mediocre and predictable, and I’ve become skeptical about them all.

    I haven’t read Timeline, but I do like Crichton. He’s a favorite of mine among thriller writers. (Sphere and Andromeda Strain are my favorites of his.)

    1. Jackie says:

      Teresa, I think Andromeda Strain might be my favourite too! I love his earlier books, but all of them have been enjoyable reads.

  6. Violet says:

    Recently I saw this book at a bookstore sale and almost picked it up but didn’t because of the size. Also I had a feeling that I would not like the book.

    1. Jackie says:

      Violet, If you are not a fan of chunksters then I don’t think this is a good place to start. I recommend Fingersmith – have I mentioned that before?!!

  7. lilly says:

    I actually did like the book. I somehow knew from the beginning (probably read in a few reviews) that i shouldn’t really expect anything ambitious and I didn’t so maybe that’s why I didn’t mind the whole book. Of course there are a few things there that annoyed me to no end (the over-usage of French and Carcassone) but I finished it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Lilly, I knew that this was going to be a lighter book, but don’t mind that as long as the charcters are engaging. Unfortunately I found it all a bit dull. I’m pleased to hear that you liked it though.

  8. Steph says:

    I have been aware of this book, but I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I figured it would be one of those plot-driven books where you can turn off your brain and just read for the story, but I had no idea if the story would be any good. I kind of thought it was playing off the success of the whole Da Vinci Code, so I decided to stay away. Now I’m glad I did!

    It’s a shame the book didn’t work for you, but at least you enjoyed hearing the author speak! I admit that I chuckled a bit to myself when you revealed that she inspired you to try again, but you only made it another 10 pages! I could see doing that myself.

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, I had hoped it would be like that too. I knew it wasn’t going to be anything deep, but hoped it would have a gripping plot. It is interesting that my favourite authors haven’t been very good public speakers – I think great writers tend to be shy, quiet people! I am almost tempted just to go and see a load of authors who I don’t enjoy – just to see if they make great public speakers!

  9. Jenny says:

    I bought this in a charity shop in Colchester, and started reading it while I was waiting for my flatmates. And I wasn’t very interested, and it wasn’t very well-written, and I took it right back to the charity shop & bought The Moonstone instead. Much better investment. :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, I agree – the Moonstone was a much better choice! I love that book!

  10. Juxtabook says:

    Excellent review Jackie. I loathed Labyrinth. I thought the plot, characters, writing, you name it, were all poor. Possibly the historical stuff on medieval France saved it but to be honest I would rather have just read a history book. I like Kate Moss on Radio 4 but I am staggered this was ever published. How many times were characters hit on the head, knocked out cold, and came round with nothing worse than a headache and a stiff neck. Suspension of disbelief was impossible. I congratulate you on not bothering to finish, I wish I had not given time up to do so.

    1. Jackie says:

      Juxtabook, I am amazed that this book became such a hit without me hearing terrible things about it before. I just assumed it to be an average, light read, so was surprised it was as bad as I found it to be.

  11. Annabel says:

    I read the whole thing (book group choice) but was so disappointed. The contemporary storyline was crap, the medieval one was somewhat better.
    I had been looking forward to it, as I had read Mosse’s first novel – Crucifix Lane – which was a dystopian/slightly SF eco-thriller, which was actually rather good. (It’s O/P now which is a shame as I sold my copy and wish I hadn’t).

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, I love dystopian thrillers! I am even more tempted to give Crucix Lane a try now!

  12. Claire says:

    I have never been tempted by this and relieved to now have the impression and I haven’t been missing out!

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, I have almost been tempted several times – I should listen to my instincts a bit more in future!

  13. Nicole says:

    It’s good to know that. It’s important to be able to separate people from their work.

    I saw your comments on Wolf Hall. LOL. As I left that comment I was thinking that there was a book you didn’t like and wondering if that was it, but to lazy to go back and look at the review. I was thinking of trying it on Audio but afraid that it might be too dry for that. And it’s not like I need to buy another book right this minute.

    1. Jackie says:

      Nicole, I would love to know what Wolf Hall was like on audio – it might help with the dialect.

  14. She says:

    Aww, that stinks! The story sounds so cool, too! I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you.

    1. Jackie says:

      She, Hopefully the next book will be better!

  15. Simon S says:

    I have to say this book sounded thrilling when I first got it, however about 40 pages in I was struggling and by page 80 I had jacked it in. I hardly ever do this with a book, but it all fell a little flat for me too.

    1. Jackie says:

      Simon, Congratulations on giving up before me! I was tempted to give up much earlier and should have listened to my instincts!

  16. kimbofo says:

    I don’t usually give up on books, but I gave up on this one. Sadly, I’d chosen it for my online reading group. It really polarised people. Discussion here:

    Quite frankly I thought it was rubbish. A poor man’s (or woman’s) version of a Dan Brown novel, in my humble opinion.

    1. Jackie says:

      kimbofo, I enjoyed reading Dan Brown – at least his books have a gripping story line. This failed to entertain me, as well as being poorly written. Thanks for the link – I’ll enjoy reading that later!

  17. claire says:

    Jackie, like you, I was really interested in the premise. I saw it at the library on the new arrivals shelf. But when I opened to the first page, realized I didn’t like the writing style so opted not to pick it up. Have not been tempted since.

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, I think that you can tell a lot from the first page/chapter. I often read the first few pages before deciding to read a book now.

  18. Jenners says:

    I imagine it must be hard to not like a book by an author you’ve heard and really enjoy. too bad.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, I don’t mind. Some people are great entertainers, some great writers. I am happy to accept whatever talent they have and enjoy it!

  19. Beth F says:

    I was all excited to read this when it first came out. Then I started looking into a little more closely and realized that I don’t think it’s going to be for me.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, It is sad when we get excited about something and then is turns out to be disappointing. Nevermind – there are so many great books out there!

  20. Joanna says:

    I’ve been tempted by this over and over again but haven’t heard great things about it… I’ve added Timeline to my wishlist though! :-)

    1. Jackie says:

      Joanna, I hope that you enjoy Timeline. If you are a Crichton fan then you are sure to love it!

  21. Lenore says:

    I am very interested in the premise, but always put off by the length. I guess the book Timeline must be much better than the awful movie!

    1. Jackie says:

      Lenore, It is interesting that you should bring up the movie – I loved it! Some of the criticism of the film was that it was impossible to follow, but having read the book this wasn’t a problem for me. The acting was a bit cheesy, but I don’t mind that.

  22. Meghan says:

    I have this one on my shelf thanks to a charity shop. I originally bought it for my husband, since he did enjoy Dan Brown and tends to like that sort of puzzley thriller, but he wasn’t into it. I thought I’d give it a try, but now I’m wondering if it’s just going to end up back at the charity shop it came from. Thanks for your honesty! I’m glad I have Timeline as well. =)

    1. Jackie says:

      Meghan, I think it may well end up back in the charity shop!
      I hope that you enjoy Timeline!

  23. Hi Jackie! I’ve only been away for a few days, and find so much here that I want to read and/or comment on – I’m glad to see your views on Labyrinth – it was a very hyped book and I would never have got past the first few pages if I’d picked up a paper version –
    I make lots of long car journeys and I while away the time by listening to audio books which I get from the library – The choices are very limited and I never know what I might find on the shelves, so when Labyrinth was about the only one there that I was mildly interested in, I took it.
    Even the audio version was hard going, and while it did retain my interest (more stimulating than watching the tail lights of cars ahead crawling along the M25) I was constantly aware of the rather clunky prose and somewhat cardboard characters. I did persevere till the end, and was quite glad that I had, but in any other circumstances would have had plenty of other things to fill my time.
    I’m so glad that Kate Moss turns out to be a lovely person. As a writer myself, I feel a bit bad, dismissing such a massive tome – I can imagine how much sweat and tears will have been shed in the process of writing it. I have to acknowledge the clever aspects of the plot- it mainly held together well, and I could picture the scenery vividly –
    I could probably find other positive aspects of the novel – thinking about it now, I know there were several sequences that were quite gripping. The whole thing was an incredibly ambitious undertaking – and from her point of view, it was definitely worth the effort. For many of her readers, their efforts weren’t worth it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Christine, Thank you for your long + thoughtful comment!
      It is nice to know that I am not alone in my opinions and that the audio version wasn’t much better. I realise that it must take enormous effort to write such a long book, but I know there are lots of people out there who really enjoyed it, so I don’t want to take that away from her. She is a really nice person and deserves all the success that comes her way. I’m sure all her future books will sell well whether I enjoy them or not!

  24. This one has been on my shelf for quite a while too, so I’ll give it a try. Sorry to hear it didn’t work for you though.

    1. Jackie says:

      Melissa, I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts when you decide to give it a try.

  25. well, I guess I’m in the minority here! :) I liked it alot — and her Sepulchre as well. I haven’t read Crichton’s Timeline – hadn’t heard of it – but I will now.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, I think you are in the majority overall – it is only the people who didn’t like it that have commented here. Before picking up this book I had only heard good things about it. I hope that you enjoy Timeline!

  26. Belle says:

    I’ve had Labrynth on my shelf for ages, too, and for some reason have never taken it down for a read, even though it has a lot of elements I like. And I really enjoyed Crichton’s Timeline, too – I found his writing so vivid, even though I read this at least a few years ago, I still remember certain parts of the story.

    1. Jackie says:

      Belle, Crichton writes very vividly – it doesn’t matter what his subject matter is – I always seem to enjoy it.

  27. Karen says:

    A long time since I read this one now, but I did enjoy it. I do recall there being quite a lot of information that could be quite difficult to keep track of sometimes but not enough to make me consider abandoning the read. A good read for me and I did go on to read Sepulchre and enjoyed that one just as much.

    1. Jackie says:

      Karen, I didn’t have a problem with there being too much information – I just couldn’t engage with the text. Glad to hear that you enjoyed it though :-)

  28. Okay, so I followed you here from Twitter and was browsing around and saw this post as a ‘You might also like’. I had VERY strong feelings about this book and so I was really interested to see what you thought (not saying one has to agree all the time, but this one is a litmus test for me).
    And, oh yes. 100% yes. This was exactly what I thought. I haven’t heard her talk live but have read interviews and she comes across as so lovely. The subject matter is RIGHT up my street and I am by no means a literary snob -but oh heck no, no, no I just couldn’t read the book.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jane, I use this book as a test of reading taste too – it does seem to divide people along strong lines. I highly recommend going to see her talk, but I’m afraid I won’t be attempting any of her other books. :-(

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