Friday, 13 June 2014

Stigmata by Colin Falconer

Reviewer: Liza Perrat, author of Spirit of Lost Angels and Wolfsangel

What we thought: It is 1205 and the knight, Philip of Vercy has survived a year of savage warfare in the Holy Land. He sails back to his castle in France expecting peace, and his beloved wife waiting, but is devastated to find his wife has died in childbirth and his young son is seriously ill.

When he hears of a healer in the Languedoc, Philip sets off from Burgundy on a desperate voyage to save his son.

But he rides straight into a war where his countrymen are being brutally persecuted by the Pope’s savage mercenaries sent to wipe out the heretics of the south – the Cathars. As the crusaders tighten their grip on the country, Philip’s journey becomes more and more perilous.

He finds the young woman, Fabricia BĂ©renger, who sees visions and is marked with Christ’s Stigmata, perhaps giving her healing powers. Sickened by the senseless slaughter, Philip questions everything he once held as true, and asks himself if he can give it all up and fight for justice, and for a woman everyone sees as godless.

Stigmata’s intricate detail reflects the author’s solid research, the dialogue and writing style took me to the core of southern France in the 13th century. The story moves along at a cracking pace, the narrative fraught with action and tension at every turn. I found Philip and Fabricia sympathetic and believable characters, and would highly recommend Stigmata as a powerful tale of religious heresy, crusades, loss and love.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: historical tales about the Crusades.

Avoid if you don’t like: characters who have visions from unexplained sources. Violent religion-fuelled squabbles. 

Ideal accompaniments: A slice of mutton pie with lashings of gravy, washed down with a beaker of hot spiced wine. 

Genre: Historical Fiction

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