Citadel by Kate Mosse: A Review

Summer, 1942.  A spirited and courageous young woman, Sandrine, finds herself drawn into the world of the resistance in Carcassonne under German Occupation.  Her network codenamed 'Citadel' - is made up of ordinary women who risk everything to fight the sinister battles raging in the shadows around them.  As the war reaches its violent and bloody conclusion, Sandrine's fate is tied up with that of three very different men. But who is the real enemy? Who is the real threat? And who is the true guardian of the ancient secrets that for generations have drawn people to the foothills of the Pyrenean mountains?

Author, Kate Mosse, is the Co-Founder & Honorary Director of the prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction, set up in 1996 to celebrate outstanding fiction by women from throughout the world. A regular judge of writing, literary and art awards, including Orange Futures, Harper’s Bazaar/Orange Short Story Competition and Grazia/Orange First Chapter competition. A leading campaigner for literacy and reading in the UK, and one of the authors leading the campaign against library closures.

A member of the Board of the National Theatre, Kate is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.  Named European Woman of Achievement for Contribution to the Arts in 2000, in 2006, she was awarded an Honorary Masters Degree by the University of Chichester, her hometown, for her contribution to the arts. She is a Trustee of the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum in West Sussex.

Kate and her husband, Greg Mosse — fellow writer, poet and teacher — are the founders of the Chichester Writing Festival and teach creative writing at West Dean College, where Greg set up the MA in Creative Writing for the University of Sussex.

It was this beautiful house at Baudrigues where seven men and two women were executed by Nazi forces in 1944. This was the starting point for new novel, Citadel.  The novel was inspired by a plaque in the village of Roullens, outside Carcassonne, commemorating the ‘Martyrs of Baudrigues’, the seven men and two women who were executed by fleeing Nazi forces on 19th August 1944, just days before the Languedoc was liberated by its own people. Over time, all seven men have been identified, including the two leading members of the Aude resistance – Jean Bringer and Aimé Ramond. After nearly seventy years, the two women still have not been identified.
                                            Aime Ramond                                                       


The Languerdoc Trilogy containing Labyrinth, Sepulchre, and now Citadel, began in 2005 with Labyrinth telling a story of the Albigensian crusade and the destruction of the Cathar heresy in the 13th century, weaving historical truth with the legends of the holy grail that flourished after the final massacre of the Cathars at their fortress of Montségur.

I've been enraptured by this third installment, 'Citadel.' I found it emotionally and historically compelling, gripping characters and medieval France -- never boring! A family story, a bittersweet love story, ghosts ever present through time hover over protagonists like a cold chill running down your spine all leading to a gutwrenching conclusion. Roman Gaul and WWII France storylines abound...

The novel takes place during the years 1942-1944 between the occupation and liberation of southern France where the Nazi occupation provides a primal and dark setting. Mosse gathers a large cast of characters, as with Labyrinth and Sepulchre, the story centres around the protagonist and young heroine, 18-year-old Sandrine Vidal, an orphan living with her older sister Marianne Vidal in Carcassonne.  During the summer of 1942, Sandrine's life changes forever when she is saved by a young resistance fighter, Raoul Pelletier, just as he discovers that his network has been infiltrated by a spy, Leo Authié, working for the Deuxième Bureau, the French military intelligence agency. After a bomb goes off in a crowded demonstration, Raol realizes he was set up to look like the perpetrator by his friend Authie. Raol goes on the run with Sandrine's help, along with her sister, a resistance worker.

Raol is in possession of a map revealing the whereabouts of an ancient codex containing a secret so powerful it could change the course of the war. Authié is obsessed with restoring the purity of the Catholic faith and believes that this 'codex' could be the answer. He perseus Raol and friends believing them to have the codex in their possession. Not wanting to give any spoilers, there are many character deaths and much violent situations. Although, readers of Labyrinth and Sepulchre may recognize returning character, Audric Baillard a scholar and horrible man.

Juxtaposed against this WWII backdrop of romance and intrigue, is the dual storyline of Roman Gaul which tells the history and gives the origins of this ancient 'codex.' I must say Mosse uses this parallel as a way of brilliantly fleshing out the possible underlying explanations to the Nazi resistance subtext between the love story of Sandrine and Raol as well as Sandrine's family history.

"She had suffered and she had survived, but the experience had changed her. And she told no one but Monsieur Baillard about the voice she had heard. About the warrior angel in stone who seemed to give her courage." 

'Said goodbye. Not knowing when we're going to see each other again.'
It's different this time,' she said, trying to raise a smile. 'I know where you're going and you'll only be gone a few days.'
'I have a bad feeling. I don't want to leave you.'
Sandrine smiled. 'You always say that,' she said. 'You always think something's going to go wrong, but it never does.'
Raol didn't answer.
He stared at her for a moment longer, as if trying to commit every tiny feature to memory. Then he leant forward and kissed her on the forehead.
'I love you, you know.'
Sandrine smiled. 'I know.'
She felt his fingers loosen their hold, then the connection between them was broken.
'Be careful,' she said.
'I will. I always am.'
'Go, then.'
This time, he did what she asked. Raol was walking away from her, as he had done many times before. Grief suddenly overwhelmed her. Having been so desperate for him to go, Sandrine had underestimated how broken she would feel if he did.
'Raol!' she called after him into the darkness.
She saw him turn and start to run, back towards her, gathering her into his arms. She hung on tight, holding him as if she would never let him go. Her skin touching his without fear, his hair against her cheek, like the very first kiss they had shared on the corner of the rue Mazagran. And now, at last, everything was forgotten but the smell of him and the feel of him and how they fitted so perfectly with one another.
'I love you, you know.' she said, echoing his words.
'I know, he said.

 Author photo of Kate Mosse, her biography and Citadel history taken from her UK website, Kate Mosse

Citadel is not available in the United States as of yet. No publication date has been provided.
Citadel is out in the U.K. in hardcover and across Europe.

Please feel free to leave comments,


Kevin Marsh said…
I just love Kate's books and have read most of them. I have the Citadel and am looking forward to reading it. The Labyrinth and Sepulchre are two of my favourite books. Her books are always so well researched and well written. I'm sure Kate has a house in the Languadoc region and as I love France I'm also hoping to have a house there one day!
Kimberly Eve said…
Yes, she's one of my favorite authors. I hope you fully enjoy Citadel but more importantly finding that house in the Languadoc region!
PetalumainIndy said…
This may be your finest post (that I have read). A genuine felicity of expression. So many threads.
Kimberly Eve said…
Hello PetalumainIndy, Welcome and thanks so much for commenting. I'm so glad you enjoyed it and what praise! I take it to heart and appreciate your words so much.

Popular Posts