Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Visit to the 16th Century French Court

M. J. Rose
Atria Books
April 8, 2014

The Collector of Dying Breaths is book #6 in M.J. Roses's bestselling Reincarnationist series, of which I have read the last three. The Collector appears to bring to a close this particular story arc. Jac L'Etoile is the heir of a famous French perfume house, along with her brother, Robbie. Jac however has not become a perfumer, but a mythologist with a successful television show. She has suffered "memory lurches" all her life-lurches into other lives and eras. Robbie and her mentor, Malachai Samuels, believe that she is remembering past lives. But Jac refuses to believe in reincarnation.

Jac suffers a great personal loss at the beginning of the book, one that forces her to reassess her attitudes. Her "memory lurches" bring her into the life of Rene le Florentine, perfumer to Catherine de Medici in 16th century France. Rene is not only Catherine's perfumer, but also supplies her with poisons for her enemies. Rene and Catherine believe that by collecting the last breaths of the dying, their souls can be reanimated. Jac and her estranged lover, Griffin Bell, become embroiled with an incredibly rich collector, Melinoe, and her step-brother, Serge. Both Melinoe and Serge will do anything to find the formula to reanimate the "breaths".

Told in alternating voices, those of Jac and Rene, The Collector of Dying Breaths is a fascinating look at the intrigue and politics of the French Court and the religious strife of the age. I found Rene an interesting, if not entirely sympathetic character and Queen Catherine even more so. Jac, however, is a character I never really connected with, and Griffin, even less so. The ending is a satisfactory one with Jac finally seizing control of her own life and breaking the cycle that has governed it. Rose's writing is lush and descriptive and the books are a leap of imagination, one well-grounded in history.

Thanks to netgalley and Atria Books for an advance digital copy.

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