"July 2005. In the Pyrenees mountains near Carcassonne, Alice Tanner, a volunteer at an archaeological dig, stumbles into a cave and makes a startling discovery - two crumbling skeletons, strange writings on the walls and the pattern of a labyrinth; between the skeletons, a stone ring, and a small leather bag. Too late Alice realizes that she has set in motion a terrifying sequence of events and that her destiny is inextricably tied up with the fate of those called heretics eight hundred years before.
July 1209. On the eve of a brutal crusade sent by the pope to stamp out heresy, a crusade that will rip apart southern France, seventeen-year-old Alais is given a ring and a mysterious book for safekeeping by her father as he leaves to fight the crusaders. The book, he says, contains the secret of the true Grail, and the ring, inscribed with a labyrinth, will identify a guardian of the Grail. As crusading armies led by Church potentates and nobles of northern France gather outside the city walls of Carcassonne, it will take great sacrifice to keep safe the secret of the labyrinth, a secret that has been guarded for thousands of years. "
The book starts in modern-day France, with Alice Tanner discovering two skeletons in a cave. Scared by the ghosts of the past, she runs back at the camp and soon the police start interrogating her. Who is she? Why did she feel the need to get away from the camp? Why dig there? What did she see in the cave? All questions that confuse her and make her feel threatened. So she runs, convinced there's something weird about the detective questioning her. Just when an innocent man gets killed and Alice is forced to run again the story goes back in time, in 1209. We meet Alais, a young woman who discovers a body in the river next to the town she lives in. Scared, she runs to tell her father, certain she'll be chastised for getting out of the town without an escort, but her father's attitude is nothing like the one she suspected. Soon, her father's secrets will change her life forever.
One of the things that I loved about this book were the historical details. Being nuts about history made me devour every bit of historical paragraph in this book. And there were many. I'm sure the author had to research a lot in order to get as many accurate details as possible in the book. I admit I had to Google some information I found there, in part for checking the accuracy of the details, in part because I wanted to learn more about them.
Another thing that I loved was the way the author changed time frames. The cliffhangers drove me crazy, making me want to read faster, until my vision was blurry. Plus, the change of scenery and time frame made the mystery more...believable for me. At some point though I got confused because of the many characters in the book, maybe because some of them are so much alike.
I found it very similar to The Da Vinci Code, but better. I think Labyrinth was a lot more easier to read and the action started right away and it didn't stumble along the way, it didn't stall. Even if the main plot didn't have twists and turns at every page, the subplots did. The characters seemed believable, not a little bit fake. I can't say more about the similarities, because I couldn't finish Dan Brown's book, but I'm sure I won't make a mistake by saying that Labyrinth is the better of the two.
I believe the author did a great job at combining history with mystery and a little bit of romance.