Blue Flame (Perfect Fire Trilogy) by Katie Grant

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Blue Flame (Perfect Fire Trilogy) by Katie Grant

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A high romance epic with Arthurian echoes and sectarian themes set in the Middle Ages in the Occitan region between France and Spain. It takes a while to get into, but then repays the effort.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: October 2008
Publisher: Quercus
ISBN: 978-1847245281

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Chalus Chabrol in the thirteenth century. A band of Occitan knights are beseiged by Richard the Lionheart, and they must protect the Blue Flame at all costs. It's the soul of their country. Realising doom is inevitable, the knights entrust the flame to Parsifal, the young son of Sir Bertrand. While he makes his escape, they make their last stand. And Parsifal does find his way home, back to the Occitan, on the borders of modern-day France and Spain. It's an unhappy time of civil unrest. Catholics pit themselves against Cathars and the country is ablaze with bigotry and hatred.

In the midst of the turmoil are Yolanda and Raimon, one Catholic, one Cathar, who are falling in love. Raimon must help Parsifal protect the blue flame, and Parsifal must decide to which side he should entrust his precious burden.

It took me a while to get into Blue Flame - the narrative voice seemed to shift around quite a bit and I didn't feel comfortable reading until I'd got about a third of the way through. The book is told in the third person from shifting viewpoints, and every now and again, the Occitan, the land itself, gets a voice. I found this horribly distracting. However, once I felt on solid enough ground to really begin to identify with the characters, I found myself engrossed.

The love story between Yolanda, the rich heiress, and Raimon, the humble weaver's son, is particularly well-told - it is young love in all its passion and glory, but it is tempered by class, bigotry, religion and political turmoil. Your heart aches for both of them. Persifal, the Arthurian-style keeper of the Occitan flame, is a character from the best of legends and high romances. He has been chosen for a sacred duty, and he must endure travails aplenty and keep his heart pure. There's also a rich surrounding cast of fully-fleshed characters. Indeed, by the end of this first volume of a trilogy, my heart was in my mouth.

There is something missing though, and I can't quite put my finger on what it is. Perhaps the striving for an epic tone and the weaving in of Arthurian echoes has compromised a clear authorial voice. I did enjoy Blue Flame, but I think it is a book for the dedicated reader.

My thanks to the nice people at Quercus for sending the book.

Religious conflict is also a strong theme in Elizabeth Laird's classy novel Crusade.

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