The City of Tears by Kate Mosse



June 1572. For ten, violent years the Wars of Religion have raged across France. Neighbours have become enemies, countless lives have been lost, the country has been torn apart over matters of religion, citizenship and sovereignty. But now a precarious peace is in the balance: a royal wedding has been negotiated by Catherine de’ Medici and Jeanne d’Albret, an alliance between the Catholic Crown and Henri, the Huguenot king of Navarre. It is a marriage that could see France reunited at last.

Meanwhile in Puivert, an invitation has arrived for Minou Joubert and her family to attend this historic wedding in Paris in August. But what Minou does not know is that the Joubert family’s oldest enemy, Vidal, will also be there. Nor that, within days of the marriage, on the eve of the Feast Day of St Bartholomew’s, Minou’s family will be scattered to the four winds and one of her beloved children will have disappeared without trace . . .


The City of Tears is the second novel in The Joubert Family Chronicles and is set ten years after the events of The Burning Chambers. Piet and Minou have been raising their children, seven-year-old Marta and two-year-old Jean Jacques, in the peaceful environs Puivert where people of all religions have been welcomed, however a dark shadow still looms over their heads in the shape of their enemy Vidal du Plessis who is determined to destroy their happiness and wipe out the Huguenots.

When the family receive an invitation to the royal wedding of Charles IX’s sister, Marguerite de Valois to Henri III of Navarre, there is excitement mixed in with a great deal of trepidation as the marriage between the Catholic princess and the Protestant prince is meant to bring an end to the Wars of Religion. When a failed assassination attempt leaves her sister, Alis, with serious wounds, Minou is reluctant to leave Puivert but she is persuaded it is the right decision by Piet who Minou is convinced is hiding things from her. Arriving in Paris, Minou’s fears are soon proved to be correct when violence erupts in the city in the wake of the wedding. Known to history as the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, the people of Paris took it upon themselves to hunt out Protestants and murder them over a three day period. A similar massacre would take place in other cities and provinces throughout France over the coming weeks which culminated in the deaths of thousands.

While Piet and Minou manage to escape Paris, the massacre takes a heavy toll on them as their daughter, Marta, goes missing in the chaos and they are forced to flee without her. Settling in Amsterdam, Minou is haunted by the loss of her daughter and the subsequent birth of another daughter, Bernarda, does nothing to soothe the ache. With the help of friends, Minou and Piet establish an orphanage for displaced children but they are horrified when the discover their is a plot to overthrow the current Catholics leaders in favour of the Protestant Prince of Orange. Fearing another massacre, Piet and Minou use their influence to persuade the Calvinists to take power peacefully but it comes at a price.

Five years later, Minou and Piet’s lives are disrupted once again by a letter from an old friend in France who has met a young woman who bears a striking resemblance to Minou and has the same mismatched colour of eyes. Convinced the young woman is their daughter, Minou and Piet return to France to find her and it leads to a terrifying confrontation with Vidal du Plessis who has descended into madness. Having retired from the church, Vidal has become a religious relic hunter and intends to use his collection to establish a new Catholic order in France, however his time is running out.

Once again Kate Mosse transports us back to the turbulent religious wars that beset France and other European countries in the sixteenth century. The pace of this book seems faster than the first one as there is a lot to pack in but I really like how the historical themes are presented away from the royal courts and touch on the lives of ordinary citizens. After spending a peaceful few years in Puivert, Minou’s family is once again torn apart by events out of their control and there are some heartbreaking losses along the way. We learn more about Piet’s past and why Vidal, a former friend, has come to despise him so much but it is not the main focus of the story.

Some of the plot seems a little disjointed due to the time jumps but these are necessary to move the story forward to the next event in the Reydon-Joubert household so it didn’t bother me too much. I did miss some of the characters who were more prominent in the first book but were pushed into the background in this one. It stands to reason this is necessary as the book would have probably been twice the size otherwise. The third book in the series The Ghost Ship features Minou’s granddaughter, Louise, and is set after the religious wars exploring piracy on the Barbary Coast so I’m curious to see how it fits into the series.