1205: The knight Philip of Vercy has survived a year of savage warfare in the Holy Land and sails back to his castle in France expecting peace and his beloved wife waiting. He is devastated to find his wife has died in childbirth and his young son is seriously ill. When he hears of the existence of a healer in the Languedoc, Philip sets off from Burgundy on a desperate voyage to save his son.
He rides straight into a war where his countrymen are being brutally persecuted by the pope’s savage mercenaries sent to wipe out the heretics of the south – the Cathars. As the crusaders tighten their grip on the country, Philip’s journey becomes more and more perilous.
He locates Fabricia Bérenger – a young woman who sees visions and is marked with Christ’s Stigmata, perhaps giving her healing powers. Sickened by the senseless slaughter, Philip questions everything he once held as true, and asks himself if he can give it all up and fight for justice and for a woman everyone regards as godless.
The intricate detail in Stigmata reflects the author’s solid research and took me right to the core of this historical period. The sense of time and place, the dialogue and writing style, completely immersed me in 13th-century southern France. The story moves along at a cracking pace, the narrative fraught with action and tension at every turn. I found Philip and Fabricia sympathetic and believable characters, and I would highly recommend Stigmata as a powerful tale of religious heresy, crusades, loss and love.