Cathar - Christopher Bland

In this compelling historical novel, set in the Languedoc in the end of the 13th century, François de Beaufort, a knight and a Cathar, loves three women - Blanche, Sybille and Beatrice. He is Cathar by birth, and ultimately by conviction, despite the unrelenting efforts of the Inquisition to stamp out this heresy through war, torture and the stake. 

After surviving two sieges François is sentenced to a pilgrimage of penance to Compostela, and ends up in the Cathar village of Montaillou. And then the Inquisition strikes again. 

Editions : Head of Zeus, 2016
Langue : anglais     Pages : 338

To change my mind after the disappointment of the Chevaux céleste de José Frèches, I've turned to a safe bet. I received a historical novel on Cathars at Christmas. Those who know me, are aware of the fact that I've been passionate about the history of this heresy for a long time. So, Christopher Bland's novel could only please me. (For French version, click here).

The crusade against the Albigensis in the Languedoc et the beginning of the 13th century is a war that I know about quite a lot, because I've studied it during my bachelor in history. That's why when I read a novel happenning in this context, I'm very careful about historical details.

Christopher Bland doesn't follow the chronology of events in his novel Cathar ; he explains it in a note. In my opinion, it's not a problem. It is a piece of fiction. It is absolutely normal to make some arrangement for the sake of the plot. However, the context is close to reality. The author shows very well the life conditions and the atmosphere of the time. Some of the characters are real historical actors of the crusade. The cathar religion is also well described et we clearly see that its beliefs are deeply rooted in all levels of the society, as much among peasants, as in the noble class. 

The methods of the Inquistion are also relatively in line with the reality. Bland talks about torture, the stake, but also attempts to convert through preaching. And even if it is not necessarily the hobby of everyone, I find all of this very interesting.

Apart from all the historical details, the novel tells the story of a man pursued by the Inquisition and the three women he loves. They're all different kinds of love. François associates an idealized love with the first one, Blanche. He is then a boy who sees in her the figure of the perfect woman. I won't talk about the others, it would be a shame to spoil the story... ;) This book is a novel of adventures, of love, of spirituality as well and of fight for power. François survives to two sieges and faces death many times. In addition to the threat of the Inquisition, François also has to undestand what he is and what he wants. So, in a sense, Cathar is also a developing novel. And it is the kind of story that I prefer.

Christopher Bland's pen is easy to read. It's not exactly good literature, but it's fluid and precise. There's only one thing that bothered me a bit, it's the rapidity with which the relationships evolve. At the beginning, I found it very harsh. I had the feeling that the author was skipping steps. But as I went along the book, I got caught in the plot and the rapidity of the sequence stopped bothering me. It is normal that the story goes fast as it follows François's life from his childhood to his advanded adulthood. I even ended liking the quick rhythm. François doesn't have time to be bored and neither the reader.

In the end, I had a good time reading this novel and it gave me back the taste of reading like I used to. I suggest it to everyone, even those who are not necessarily interested in the Cathar heresy. If you like adventure novel and romance, then this book is for you.

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