There are few authors I could read every day without tiring (I say this never having tried, haha!), but Steve Berry would have to be one. His mix of mystery and little-known historical events blend together to make sensational stories. He has a well-established Cotton Malone series, which has permitted one of its supporting characters—Cassiopeia Vitt—branch out onto her own on one previous occasion. Berry has teamed-up with M.J. Rose, an author I have not read, to create this wonderful novella with Vitt in the driver’s seat. Visiting a friend in the French village of Eze, Cassiopeia Vitt finds herself chasing someone who has just stolen a costly item from a museum. This is not just any box, but a Sabbat Box, filled with elixirs and potions and used in mediaeval times. Apparently brought to auction six months before, the Box contains items that trace back to the fifth century and could be called an ancient ‘pharmacy in a box’. Vitt catches the apparent thief and slides one of the vials into her pocket, curious about what its powers might be. Soon, Vitt is attacked herself and the Box stolen once again. Confronting the original thief, Vitt learns the true power of the Box, having inhaled some of the fumes from her own vial. This takes her back in time, into the body and mind of one Morgan le Fay. During this state, Vitt (le Fay) encounters a man she has been waiting for and with whom she has a romantic connection. Does this hallucination speak to the present course of events? If so, who is this man, if not Cotton Malone (who is on his way to America)? Baffled but adamant that she will retrieve the Sabbat Box, Vitt follows clues she obtains while conversing with a Paris detective. With a French presidential election under a week away, the Sabbat Box could play a larger role that that of the ballot variety in swaying the results. The trouble is, no one is entirely sure how! A brilliant teaser for those waiting for Berry’s next Cotton Malone novel as well as the many fans Rose has of her own work. Recommended specifically for Berry fans who like what Vitt brings to stories (for I cannot speak of anything Rose has penned).
As I mentioned above, I have long been a fan of Steve Berry’s work and leapt at the chance to read this piece while I await the next Cotton Malone novel. Berry and Rose have created an interesting tale that pulls on both the present time and distant ages past. Cassiopeia Vitt, who has long been a secondary character, plays the protagonist in this piece. Her backstory is fleshed out a little more, with discussion of her childhood and upbringing. The authors also put her grit and determination front and centre, allowing the reader to better understand this woman who has often been called the ‘billionaire building a castle’ and more recently Cotton Malone’s love interest. The handful of other characters help to offer a stronger story, both in modern France and medieval Europe, though there is surely a sinister revelation that awaits the patient and attentive reader, revealed through intense dialogue presented within the narrative. The story straddles both time periods and uses alchemy to bind them. Without offering up too much of the story (and thereby spoiling it), there is a definite pulse to the story that requires the reader to understand what is going on during both time periods, which can then be bound together by the closing pages of the novella. Berry and Rose Bering their experiences together in this piece, adding some of their characters to the novella and creating a handful of others. While sorcery and magic is not my cup of tea, this piece did pique my interest and I may have to see what M.J. Rose is all about. Additionally, I am curious to see if Berry adds mention of it in his upcoming Malone novel. A great way to spend a short time reading and perfect for a beach afternoon!
Kudos, Mr. Berry and Madam Rose, for this piece that is both unique and on par with much that I have read in Berry’s series. I hope you work together again, as this was a wonderful collaborative effort.
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons