Marie's Reviews > Sepulchre

Sepulchre by Kate Mosse
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's review
Feb 26, 11

bookshelves: fiction, mystery, fantasy, reviewed
Read from October 01, 2010 to January 22, 2011 — I own a copy, read count: 1

Thank goodness it's over.

Léonie has to be one of the most irritating female characters I've read in a while: she wants to be considered an adult (being a 17-year-old girl in France in 1891) and yet consistently behaves like a child. When she is caught and (rightly) chided, she throws a tantrum worthy of a toddler. Every time, up until the last 50 or so pages, only a chapter is devoted to her actual emotion growth--which would have made a far more interesting story. Even Léonie's aunt Isodel had promise as a character up until those last few pages--but unfortunately not being main focus character Léonie, Isodel is denied any character growth: until the end she is weak, weepy, and lost without her man.

(slight) (view spoiler)

Meredith may be less irritating, if only because she is an adult (less her Tragic Backstory, but it wasn't too bad, considering). Her introduction to Léonie's story stretches the imagination--there was no reason for her not to have her own 'twist' in her story instead of the Debussy memoir. If your character is supposedly researching a significant (real) historical figure, either she'd better let me know more about him, or discover something important (even if not real) during the course of the story. Instead Meredith's memoir research is her reason for being in France, and is given a shout out at the end. She does grant it a few thoughts while she wanders merrily on her own adventures, but I would like to know how she managed the rest of her research during her trip.

The character description of both characters at times crossed into the terribly awkward: twice Léonie's hair is described as [paraphrased]: "falling down her back like a skein of silk to her slender waist", and Meredith gets a "she stretched her long, slender arms above her head." Neither is too terribly bad, but generally the text is fairly close 3rd person, which makes it sound like Léonie and Meredith have rather generous descriptions of themselves. Of course, this may well be my own insecurity, but since they've both had, and are continually given, perfectly serviceable and non-intrusive descriptions saying the same thing before, it's unnecessary purple prose.

Speaking of purple prose, there's a lot of it. Mosse wants to place the reader in France, either in the late 19th century or modern day, and she spends a lot of words attempting too. Unfortunately, it reads more like a laundry list or a description of a post card, and buries whatever atmosphere or authenticity the setting could have granted.

And frankly, I really don't care about the clothes. Patricia Clapp, in Jane-Emily had a few descriptions of clothes for her teenage narrator, but used them to indicate character growth. Here, it's just filler.

Sepulchre's plot seems to be based on a similar conspiracy theory to The Da Vinci Code I think (admittedly, I'm more than a little shaky on my French history, but since I just read Secret Societies, the names seemed familiar). The tarot angle, quite frankly, never seemed to go anywhere, but perhaps it's just because this book took me so long to read. Léonie, especially, became so irritating after just a few chapters I'd have to set it down for minutes/hours/a month.

Oh, and if you enjoy clever, engaging, convincing, threating villains, look somewhere else. Quite frankly, the foreshadowing in this novel, especially later, devolves into "That's an odd thing. It makes me think of ___. But that couldn't possibly be the case! Nope, no way. Couldn't possibly! Because I said so." Saying that, most of the rest wasn't too bad. But maybe trying to keep up suspense, a great many chapters ended on this note. Last, but not at all least, the villains are given their own point of view chapters, which is frankly one of the worst decisions in this book. This isn't a spoiler, because as soon as we get their pov, the villains announce their villainy. And in case you don't believe them, go out of their way to make their evil plans by rubbing their hands and cackling madly and commenting on the beauty of the protagonists. Both were despicable characters, not frightening antagonists.

As a final note, however 19th century rich people though of their servants, it's something of a turn-off when your narrator genuinely thinks of the 'commoners' as being lesser. Every time she ended outside her house and family and encountered real people, Léonie seemed incapable as seeing them as anything but threatening. (And honestly, even if she did know more, it wouldn't have helped her. She's not a critical thinker of anything). The closest she can come to identifying with someone from a lower class than herself is with her Most Loyal Servants. And regarding the end? If anyone else can tell me that the very end does anything more than confirm her attitude as right, please let me know. Because I was seeing red.

And thank goodness I only paid $3 for the hardcover at BigLots.
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Reading Progress

10/01/2010 page 56
10.0% "Until this page here, I couldn't find any evidence that this was a sequel (though I suspected it, based on the title of the other). Bought it at BigLots for $3."
10/03/2010 page 103
19.0% "I've been taking notes, which isn't a good sign, but at least it goes quickly. Maybe the first book would help this one make sense?"
10/09/2010 page 208
38.0% "Is it possible for a character to speak to a gardener about the good weather without hearing "storm's coming"?"
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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Nancy I can see you felt strongly about this book, but will point out that the "trilogy" seems to be based merely on location not on any linkage to characters or plots. You will not miss out on much by not reading except, maybe more irritation. Then again, I could be wrong.

Marie Then again, when I went back over other reviews, it seemed that the 'trilogy' related only to the 'time stream slip' (? something like that). So I don't feel required to read the others--and I remember a review of the first that said it suffered from many of the issues I caught in this one, with worse writing.

And the idea of a trilogy based only on having two plots in two time periods that intertwine in the end a very odd one. It's not that unique an idea, and I know I've read it before. Please don't ask where though, I just know that I have ;)

Nancy I think I might have been one of those reviews that used the term "time-slip" because that is what is was referred to by some otehr reviewers (who knew?). Having read all three (hey I ran out of things to read) - the time thingy (some reincarnation/connection?) and the general location were all they had in common (also overwritten and over described, but that is taken to be understood). Two were about the Cathars and one wasn't.

By the way I enjoyed reading your irritation with the book. :-)

Marie Well, I'm glad it was entertaining, because it was mostly stream of consciousness. And it was nice to get *some* fun out of it ;)

Laini Egads! I've just begun it. Will have to see if I have your chutzpah and can finish it. I already noticed a bit of purple in her description at the opera house. Was wondering if it would continue. :/

Marie Oh dear! The purple is ongoing, but, IIRC, quite a bit of *stuff* happens, so maybe that will help? :D

Best of luck!

Laini Didn't make it. Just didn't have the wherewithal. :|

message 8: by LizetteMonet (new)

LizetteMonet I agree with both you and Laini. I got juuuust to the part where Leonie arrived to her aunt's, and had to stop. I got so tired of hearing about this 'fiery spirit beneath Raphaelite beauty'. She was boring and a contradiction to what the author was telling us. The same with, Meredith, I think her name was? I couldn't get see how a couple of grown men can catch a brief glimpse of belly button skin, and fall over from the so called 'eroticism.' And she ALSO seemed dull and old. Your review was exactly what I got from the book as well.

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