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The Burning Times [Paperback]

Jeanne Kalogridis
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: 11.99
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Book Description

4 July 2011

A sweeping historical epic and powerful romantic drama set in medieval France: a time of the Great Plague, of witchcraft, and the Inquisition.

During the height of superstition, in the midst of the Great Plague, religious fervour and terror of witchcraft sweep fourteenth-century France.

Locked in a torture chamber within the walled city of Carcassonne the Abbess Marie Françoise listens helplessly to the screams of her sisters while she awaits the arrival of the Inquisition to take her confession. As relapsa, the worst of heretics, a fiery death awaits her at the stake.

The Grand Inquisitor's scribe, Brother Michel, arrives with his mentor, Father Charles, confident that her soul can be saved. But upon meeting the Abbess, Michel is assailed by a sudden, horrifying wave of desire for her: a desire that is both physical, and attended by memories of another man's life; and spiritual: for surely this is the woman he saw with his own eyes perform a miracle outside the Palace of the Popes in holy Avignon?

As the Abbess slowly divulges her past, Michel's safe and ordered world is ripped apart. Her tale will shake the very foundation of his belief, while his heart will be trapped between the cleansing fires of Christian purity and the seductive flames of his desire.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; New Ed edition (4 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006514065
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006514060
  • Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 11 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 716,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

'Kalogridis captures the life and times of 14th century France wonderfully … an absorbing and suspenseful read!' Starburst

'A powerful narrative incorporating love, lust, mystical spiritual sects and the Knights Templar. Fab.' Ms London

'A rich potion of witch lore and religious erudition' SFX

From the Back Cover

'A sweeping historical epic and powerful romantic drama set in medieval France amid plague and war, in the time of witchcraft, and the inquisition.'

Locked in a torture chamber within the walled city of Carcassonne the Abbess Marie Francoisea listens helplessly to the screams of her sisters while she awaits the arrival of the inquisition to take her confession as 'relapsae'. As the worst of heretics, a fiery death awaits her at the stake.

The Grand Inquisitor's scribe, Brother Michel, arrives with his mentor, father Charles, to transcribe her confession, confident that her soul can be saved. But upon meeting the Abbess, Michel is assailed by a sudden, horrifying wave of desire for her: a desire that is both physical, and attended by memories of another man's life; and spiritual: for surely this is the woman he saw with his own eyes perform a miracle outside the Palace of the Popes in holy Avignon?

When Father Charles is suddenly struck down by the plague – by chance or by magic? – Michel finds himself promoted to Father, sanctioned by the Church to examine the witness and hear her confession.

As the Abbess slowly divulges her past, Michel's safe an ordered world is ripped apart. Her tale will shake the very foundation of his belief , while his heart will be trapped between the cleansing fires of Christian purity and the seductive flames of his desire.

Is there truth in her tale? Is there indeed a spiritual Race, within whom lies the true path of compassion; a Race that is being systematically rooted out and destroyed by the Catholic Church? Michel must learn the truth in the world, and in his heart, if he is to save souls including his own.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poorly Written Fairy Tale 6 April 2012
By JH
Format:Hardcover
I don't recommend this novel. The basis for the plotline is very intriguing and the reason I bought the novel; however, the author ruined a good opportunity. The story is the confession of a witch who has disguised herself as a nun to avoid prosecution. She gives her confession to a monk who sympathizes with her. And if the author would have stayed on this path I think the novel would have been a success.

Unfortunately for the reader, the author tries to make the story go in too many directions. She makes the story into fairy tale / romance novel where the heroine transforms into a goddess's avatar which must find her true love in order to save the Race. Having this novel presented as a historical fiction is a complete ruse. The use of the Knights Templar is a very poor choice that torpedoes a sinking ship. And again the backdrop of the Hundred Years' War adds nothing to the story. The story would have been better served avoiding all historical references possible.

The theme of love and compassion versus fear isn't very compelling either; it even leads to numerous events which left me annoyed and ready to quit reading. The longer the story goes the more ridiculous it gets. The ending was transparent and is left open with the "good" characters walking off into the sunset to continue the fight against evil. I sure hope there is not a sequel.

I didn't have trouble following the book. It was a pretty easy read that flowed quickly. I'm sure some readers may enjoy the novel as an easygoing fairy tale, but don't expect to find anything else here.
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14 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect historical fiction 17 Jun 2007
Format:Paperback
Once in a while, something simply turns out to be perfect. Ask any football fan. In the genre of historical novels about witches and witchcraft, Kilgoridis comes as close to a perfect book as one can get. The plot is tight, the story so well-told that if it were an opera, it would have been written by Mozart, with no erasures, no corrections, and "the right amount of notes (words in this case)" as we all remember from the film Amadeus. There really is no wasted space in the book. The characters are powerful and real, the history well-researched (as all Kalgoridis novels are). And I have to say, in all my years of enjoying historical fiction, this one has the best ending of any story. Any (I know, you think we Americans over-state things. And you're right.But still, this book is to endings/climaxes what "The Children of Men" is to opening paragraphs. Well worth your time and pounds or euros.
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20 of 39 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
with good descriptive dialog and decent prose this book is a refreshing change from other buffy-esque titles.
at times dark and at times sexy, the author defintely describes the scenes well and with good verse; you can literally imagine yourself being there.
good work.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  43 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a missed chance to write a really good book on this topic 20 April 2001
By Anja Be - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I read this book because the subject matter really intrigued me - 14th century France, the Inquisition, The Goddess versus Christianity. The book tells the story of Marie Sybille, a poor immigrant's daughter, whose destination it is to become a reincarnatin of The Goddess, and of Luc de la Rose, the son of a nobel man, who is destined to become the lover of the Goddess, and both together will have to save their ancient people from the Enemy. (what the ancient people is exactly is never explained, unfortunately) There are interesting facts (and fictions) about life in the 14th century, about the church and the Inquisition, but mostly not told with convincing detail, the scene doesn't really spring to life before your eyes. What is even less convincing are the accounts of the Goddess cult which remain too vague and fantasy-like to really inspire the reader. The twist of the plot towards the end makes interesting reading but if the author had taken care to make her characters more human and less black&white it could have been even more interesting. But when the good guys are always beautiful, tall, noble and trust-inspiring and the bad guys ugly, fat, mean-looking or otherwise dislikable, it becomes easy to guess what will happen next. In my opinion this could have become a really good book if the author had spent some more time and effort researching the background and making the book a bit more substantial. A story like that lives from the details, not from the plot. If the subject matter interests you I would recommend to read The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer-Bradley, which is far better told than this book.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing narrative, but weak climax 31 Oct 2005
By Andrew D. Kennedy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Whether this book is framed as “fiction” or “historical fiction” became important to me. I am not referring to the magic; Kalogridis assumes a world in which magic is real, and as readers we have to accept that. If you aren’t willing to suspend disbelief, you simply should not read this book (or any other book with a fantasy or science fiction element).

What I am referring to is the characterization of the Catholic Church. The idea of magic-practitioners masquerading their devotion under the guise of the Church is intriguing, and finds its real-life embodiment in syncretistic religions such as Santeria and Voodoo. However, details of the operations of the Church, and how religious officials of the time would have thought & acted, just don’t jive with the historical record. Maybe it is just me, but being somewhat familiar with the period & the Church, I found a lot of what they did in the book hard to swallow. Maybe this wouldn’t have been such a problem if the bookstore hadn’t sold me the book as “historical fiction”.

The narrative is characterized by frequent interruptions & temporal shifts. I would say you need to be prepared to read this book over a short period of time... otherwise it would seem easy enough to get confused. That being said, I don’t think this is really a defect in the narrative—in fact, it is essential to it. In my opinion the narrative was only really deficient in that the climax was too wimpy, and the resolution too brief. Without revealing too much, we’re supposed to get a sense of impending doom—but events earlier in the book clearly establish that we shouldn’t really feel a sense of doom over what we’re expecting. This relieves much of the dramatic tension, depriving the climax of its bite.

That being said, this isn’t a bad book. The concept is intriguing, the writing is good, and the background & setting are very good. But for the weak climax, I would have given it 4 stars.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Jeanne Kalogridis is lucky that I read I, Mona Lisa and The Borgia Bride first 19 Mar 2008
By Lauren A. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I picked this novel up after I finished The Borgia Bride. I LOVED the Borgia Bride and I enjoyed I, Mona Lisa. I thought this book would be of a similar genre, but about medieval France instead of Rennaissance Italy. I was also interested in the inquisition period and the Babylonian Captivity (Avignon papacy). I had read comments that the book was a bit strange, but I was not prepared for how strange it was. I was prepared to suspend belief - after all, I enjoy the magical realism genre and I loved House of the Spirits and 100 Years of Solitude - but unlike the former novels, The Burning Times' plot makes absolutely no sense. It is confusing and plain silly/stupid. I found myself skimming large passages and when it was finished I felt relief that I wouldn't have to sit through any more of this book.

I gave this book two stars rather than one star because I thought that the first 100 pages or so were promising. The middle was mediocre, but not bad enough for my to abandon the book. The last 100 pages were absolutely idiotic, however. I finished the book because I had invested so much time into it, but I would not recommend this book to anyone. If I had read it before The Borgia Bride or I, Mona Lisa, I can guarantee you that I would never have read any other books by Jeanne Kalogridis.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strange book, but intesting indeed 12 Nov 2005
By Lilly Flora - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Burning Times is a pretty odd little book. The main character Abbess Marie Franchise, whose secular name is Sybille, is about to be put on trial for heresy and attacking the Pope (something that's never explained in the book.) At the start of the book she is offered the chance to confess to two Dominican monks, one of whom, Michael, subscribes to the popular peasant belief that Sybille is a saint with healing powers. None of this, of course Michael knows, will affect the inevitable guilty outcome of her trial and subsequent being burned alive.

From the start Sybille refuses to admit any guilt, but says she will confess, to Michael only. The other monk, father Charles, doesn't want his young scribe to do this because he feels the temptations of the young and comely Sybille will be too much. But he is stricken ill and Michael goes to take Sybille's confession.

And that's what most of the rest of this book is: Sybille confession to Michael the monk. Because it's told as a narrative instead of the normal third person omniscient voice of novels a lot is left out that could have been included, so parts of this book feel sparse. But over all, the author pulls it off.

I do have to say that all refrences to magic and paganisum in this book made it feel like a fantasy novel. I know some authors who can pull of real pagen themes in historical fiction and not have it be sci-fi ish, but this isn't one of them.

I found the ending of the book to be very strange and not at all believable, but it did intrigue me and I may read it again to see it comes off as more plausible.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Kalogridis tries too hard 11 Aug 2007
By Julie Merilatt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As a historical fiction fan, I thought this book was right up my alley. However, Kalogridis' writing leaves much to be desired. She must have written with a thesaurus by her side because she unnecessarily replaces adjectives with the largest words she can find. The over-use of words like "ere" and "naught," combined with the overabundacne of pronouns like "Evil" and "Race" bog down the narrative.

The magic instilled by the Goddess of the story seems inconsistent and the heroes are too full of doubt. The only character that felt strong was Sybille's grandmother. The most enjoyable part of the narrative was when Sybille was young and under her grandmother's care. As the book progressed, the events became too urgent and felt scattered. There are so many historical side notes that could have been left out: the war with England, the involvement of the pope, midwifery... It would have been a much better book if it was shorter and more straightforward.
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