The City of Tears review – Kate Mosse's compelling 16th-century French epic

The second volume of Mosse’s wars of religion trilogy vividly depicts persecution and how politics can upturn ordinary lives

Exile and emigration are perennial themes in literature, especially historical fiction, but it’s noticeable, reading the second volume of Kate Mosse’s Burning Chambers trilogy about the Huguenot diaspora, how timely a story of refugees seems at this moment in Europe’s history and how sharply the parallels stand out.

The City of Tears opens, as did its predecessor, The Burning Chambers, with a prologue set in 19th-century South Africa, a foreshadowing of where this epic story of war and displacement will end up, before the narrative returns to 16th-century France, 10 years after the end of the previous book. Minou Joubert and Piet Reydon are living in relative peace in their castle in south-west France, their own family and estates an example of how Catholics and Protestants can amicably coexist. It’s an experiment soon to be imposed on the whole country, as the queen mother, Catherine de Medici, attempts to broker peace by marrying her Catholic daughter Margot to the Huguenot Henri of Navarre, a union opposed by the hardline Catholic faction led by the Duke of Guise. As Minou and Piet make their preparations to visit Paris for the wedding, she asks her brother Aimeric about rumours of trouble.

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