The Burning Times
This novel takes place in southern France during the 1300s, a France beset by the Inquisition and visited by the plague. However, it is not strictly historical fiction. The supernatural underpins the entire novel, in which we follow the life of Sybille, later known as Mother Marie Françoise, who is gifted with the Vision and destined to play a critical role in the survival of good in the world. At the start of the book, she is in prison in Carcasonne, waiting to be interrogated by agents of the Inquisition, expecting to die at the stake. The book goes back and forth in time, as she relates her past to the only agent she will consents to speak with, a Dominican scribe, and as we follow the scribe’s actions at the time of the interrogation.
Parts of this book are difficult to read. The author describes the inquisitors’ torture methods and the phenomenon of burning at the stake vividly though not gratuitously, and thankfully briefly. The descriptions of life in medieval France seem well done, and minor characters come alive even with just brief descriptions. I came to care very much for Sybille. The reader discovers her special powers as she does herself, making them integral and natural to the story itself. The plot was engrossing. Kalogridis is the author of a number of vampire novels, but I hope she takes the time to write another in the vein of this book.