cover image The Castle of Whispers

The Castle of Whispers

Carole Martinez, trans. from the French by Howard Curtis. Europa (Penguin, dist.), $15 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-60945-182-0

In her second novel, Martinez (The Threads of the Heart) illuminates a poetic, enigmatic and exhilarating tale, challenging the boundaries between reality and mystery; between society and gender; and between choice and fate. The year is 1187. After outraging the court by refusing her betrothed on her wedding day, the beautiful and brave 15-year-old Esclarmonde resolves to live "confined until her death [in a] little sealed cell" attached to a chapel on a cliff. Locked in the darkness of her tomb forevermore, she discovers a "crossroads where the living and the dead meet" and she begins her life as the Virgin of Whispers, the mystical imprisoned damsel who speaks from the Castle of Whispers. Destined for solitude, Esclarmonde, who unbeknownst to the kingdom is pregnant, gives birth to a son, who, like his mother, becomes renowned across the land. The destiny of anchoress in the castle is further complicated as she, with the help of her prophetic son, begins to advise her father to wage war on the holy land. Through mystical and miraculous turns, Martinez engrosses readers into a story of transcendence, redemption and survival. (Feb.)