THE BURNING TIMES by Jeanne Kalogridis


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With the completion of her vampire trilogy (Lord of the Vampires, 1996, etc.), Kalogridis turns her attention to 14th-century France in a labored myth about worshipers of the Goddess (Diana or Mary Magdalene, take your pick) whose survival is threatened by Catholic orthodoxy.

Brother Michel, adopted son of the head of the Inquisition, has three days to obtain a confession from Marie Françoise, a young abbess accused of being a relapsa, one who has accepted and then rejected Christ. Having witnessed the abbess's healing powers, Michel secretly believes she may be a saint and hopes to prove her innocence. Instead, Marie Françoise shocks him by announcing that she is not a relapsa because she has never been a Christian. She is Sybille, a priestess of the Goddess—by Christian standards, a witch. Her grandmother Noni, gifted as Sybille is with "the Sight" and the power to heal, secretly trained the girl from early childhood in her magic arts because she recognized that upon Sybille's shoulders would rest the survival of "her Race," threatened with extinction by Church persecution. In lieu of confession, Sybille describes to Michel the host of tribulations she has endured en route to her destiny as the savior of Goddess worshipers. As he listens, Michel is confused by the increasing love he feels for the beautiful heretic. Only when he uncovers the predictable truth does Sybille reach her destiny. Kalogridis entwines Sybille's story with well-researched background material about the plague, the Hundred Years' War, and France's ill-treatment of the Knights Templar. But the jam-packed story suffers from murky logic, cardboard characters, and heavy-handed philosophizing.

Despite surface similarities—Goddess worship, a heroine whose virtues run against the grain of conventional wisdom, initiation rites—Mists of Avalon fans will be disappointed by this pale imitation.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-684-86923-3
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2001


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