SUMMARY (from Goodreads): In 1891, young Léonie Vernier and her brother Anatole arrive in the beautiful town of Rennes-les-Bains, in southwest France. They’ve come at the invitation of their widowed aunt, whose mountain estate, Domain de la Cade, is famous in the region. But it soon becomes clear that their aunt Isolde – and the Domain – are not what Léonie had imagined. The villagers claim that Isolde’s late husband died after summoning a demon from the old Visigoth sepulchre high on the mountainside. A book from the Domain’s cavernous library describes the strange tarot pack that mysteriously disappeared following the uncle’s death. But while Léonie delves deeper into the ancient mysteries of the Domain, a different evil stalks her family – one which may explain why Léonie and Anatole were invited to the sinister Domain in the first place.
More than a century later, Meredith Martin, an American graduate student, arrives in France to study the life of Claude Debussy, the nineteenth century French composer. In Rennes-les-Bains, Meredith checks into a grand old hotel – the Domain de la Cade. Something about the hotel feels eerily familiar, and strange dreams and visions begin to haunt Meredith's waking hours. A chance encounter leads her to a pack of tarot cards painted by Léonie Vernier, which may hold the key to this twenty-first century American’s fate . . . just as they did to the fate of Léonie Vernier more than a century earlier.
The best fiction is such which makes the reader forget it is fiction. Kate Mosse’s writing certainly belongs to this category. Mosse does a thorough research on her subject and thus manages to combine the factual and the imaginary in an exquisite way which brings her settings and characters to life in front of the reader’s eyes.
Sepulchre is the second instalment of Mosse’s Languedoc Trilogy. I loved how the delicate links with the first book in the series, Labyrinth, enable reading Sepulchre on its own and at the same time mysterious hints to Labyrinth bring great enjoyment when reading the books in a sequence.
Cards, in particularly tarot, play an important role in the story. Mosse provides detailed descriptions and explanations concerning tarot and its reading, which I, who do not know much about cards, found a delightful read.
The plot evolves in between the past and the present, the earthly and the ethereal, good and evil. There are a lot of if-s in the story, but Mosse employs little coincidences of life to add to its credibility.
The characters in Sepulchre are authentic with their flaws and their strengths. Both female protagonists, Léonie and Meredith, grow throughout the book and overcome their weaknesses in order to do what is right.
I was unsure how I should feel about Léonie more than halfway through the book. She starts off as a confident, inquisitive, adventurous girl who can stand up for herself and express her thoughts. However, she is also young, innocent and therefore sometimes naïve, stubborn and whimsical teenager. In the end, it is her love for her family that leads her to protect those she loves and become a good, strong woman.
Meredith is taunted by her childhood memories and the fears of inheriting her mother’s weakness. As she sets off to explore her roots, she comes across an injustice which has to be unveiled for the spirits from the past to be able to rest. Through courage and will she finds both herself and the knowledge to bring peace to those from the past.
Both through her protagonists and antagonists Mosse shows that the choices people make between good and evil are their own responsibility and there are no excuses in the circumstances. For this message, Sepulchre, as other Mosse’s books, has a great moral value.
RECOMMENDATION: I must recommend Sepulcre to everyone who likes an incredible plot, strong characters and good writing where the past and the present are entwined with mystery and love.