Historical Fiction Thriller

City of Tears – Kate Mosse

9 February 2021
City of Tears Book Cover City of Tears
The Burning Chambers
Kate Mosse
Historical Fiction
St Martin's Press
19 January 2021

June 1572: for ten, violent years the Wars of Religion have raged across France. Neighbours have become enemies, countless lives have been lost, and the country has been torn apart over matters of religion, citizenship and sovereignty. But now a precarious peace is in the balance: a royal wedding has been negotiated by Catherine de’ Medici and Jeanne d’Albret, an alliance between the Catholic Crown and Henri, the Huguenot king of Navarre. It is a marriage that could see France reunited at last.

Meanwhile in Puivert, an invitation has arrived for Minou Joubert and her family to attend this historic wedding in Paris in August. But what Minou does not know is that the Joubert family’s oldest enemy, Vidal, will also be there. Nor that, within days of the marriage, on the eve of the Feast Day of St Bartholomew, Minou’s family will be scattered to the four winds and one of her beloved children will have disappeared without trace . . .

Sweeping from Paris and Chartres to the City of Tears itself – the great refugee city of Amsterdam – this is a story of one family’s fight to stay together, to survive and to find each other, against the devastating tides of history . . .


Kate Mosse has a wonderful grasp of European (particularly French) history and with such clever unassuming detail, brings The City of Tears alive with a fictional narrative that is interlaced with fascinating real events. This is the second book in the Burning Chambers series and continues the epic adventure of Minuo Reydon-Joubert and Piet Reydon, with a lens on the Catholic and Huguenot conflicts in the sixteenth century. A period of complex religious and political wars which Kate Mosse manages to tread carefully, illustrating that there is honour and corruption on both sides.

In 1572, from the base of Languedoc, which Mosse knows well from her first highly popular Languedoc trilogy, Minuo and Piet with their two children, seven-year-old Marta and two-year-old Jean Jacques, travel to Paris to celebrate and witness the royal wedding of Charles IX’s sister, Catholic Marguerite de Valois, and Protestant Henry III of Navarre. Also in Paris is Vidal du Plessis (Cardinal Valentin), an old acquaintance of Piet’s but now an enemy, with a plan to kill leading Huguenots during the festivities. The violence that erupts became known as the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, in which thousands of Huguenots were murdered. During the confusion and rampage, young Marta goes missing, and unable to find her, Minuo and Piet escape the city to safety in Amsterdam without her. The strain this puts on their marriage along with the guilt they each feel, is superbly described and targeted.

Twelve years later a young woman is reported to have a resemblance to Minuo and thought to be Marta. Minuo and Piet decide to return to France to search for their daughter, but danger is everywhere. Vidal with his collection of relics, many he knows to be fake, has ambitions to use them to gain power and position. Knowing Piet and Minuo have returned has added tension and jeopardy to everyone, and the suspense is very well delivered through many menacing twists where the hunted and hunter have many close encounters.

Kate Mosse is a master storyteller who brings historical fictional drama to life like few others, delivered with an enthralling pace that rarely falters, and a depth that is truly impressive. The family dynamics are intelligently crafted to add another dimension in this absorbing novel and the narrative uses emotional forces that are so ranging that my head and heart have been sated for some time.

I was loving the audiobook from NetGalley so much that I bought the hardback so I could continue to read and listen. The narration is perfect with the accent and dialogue beautifully portrayed especially with many French terms and places. I would highly recommend this book and audiobook and I would like to thank St Martin’s Press and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of the audiobook in return for an honest review.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley peter@thereadingdesk.com

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