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The Lake of Learning

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For over a decade Cassiopeia Vitt has been building an authentic French castle, using only materials and techniques from the 13th century. But when a treasure is unearthed at the construction site—an ancient Book of Hours—a multitude of questions are raised, all pointing to an ancient and forgotten religious sect. Once the Cathars existed all across southern France, chall For over a decade Cassiopeia Vitt has been building an authentic French castle, using only materials and techniques from the 13th century. But when a treasure is unearthed at the construction site—an ancient Book of Hours—a multitude of questions are raised, all pointing to an ancient and forgotten religious sect. Once the Cathars existed all across southern France, challenging Rome and attracting the faithful by the tens of thousands. Eventually, in 1208, the Pope declared them heretics and ordered a crusade—the first where Christians killed Christians—and thousands were slaughtered, the Cathars all but exterminated. Now a piece of that past has re-emerged, one that holds the key to the hiding place of the most precious object the Cathars possessed. And when more than one person becomes interested in that secret, in particular a thief and a billionaire, the race is on. From the medieval walled city of Carcassonne, to the crest of mysterious Montségur, to a forgotten cavern beneath the Pyrenees, Cassiopeia is drawn deeper and deeper into a civil war between two people obsessed with revenge and murder.


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For over a decade Cassiopeia Vitt has been building an authentic French castle, using only materials and techniques from the 13th century. But when a treasure is unearthed at the construction site—an ancient Book of Hours—a multitude of questions are raised, all pointing to an ancient and forgotten religious sect. Once the Cathars existed all across southern France, chall For over a decade Cassiopeia Vitt has been building an authentic French castle, using only materials and techniques from the 13th century. But when a treasure is unearthed at the construction site—an ancient Book of Hours—a multitude of questions are raised, all pointing to an ancient and forgotten religious sect. Once the Cathars existed all across southern France, challenging Rome and attracting the faithful by the tens of thousands. Eventually, in 1208, the Pope declared them heretics and ordered a crusade—the first where Christians killed Christians—and thousands were slaughtered, the Cathars all but exterminated. Now a piece of that past has re-emerged, one that holds the key to the hiding place of the most precious object the Cathars possessed. And when more than one person becomes interested in that secret, in particular a thief and a billionaire, the race is on. From the medieval walled city of Carcassonne, to the crest of mysterious Montségur, to a forgotten cavern beneath the Pyrenees, Cassiopeia is drawn deeper and deeper into a civil war between two people obsessed with revenge and murder.

30 review for The Lake of Learning

  1. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Steve Berry and M.J. Rose return with another novella in which Cassiopeia Vitt is able to take centre stage. Exploring some of the older aspects of European based religions, the reader will learn much and be dazzled by the intricate detail. While excavating for her ongoing castle project, Cassiopeia Vitt and her team uncover an old book whose contents make it not only rare, but extremely valuable. When she is visited by an interested party, Cassiopeia gets a bad feeling about Roland Beláncourt, Steve Berry and M.J. Rose return with another novella in which Cassiopeia Vitt is able to take centre stage. Exploring some of the older aspects of European based religions, the reader will learn much and be dazzled by the intricate detail. While excavating for her ongoing castle project, Cassiopeia Vitt and her team uncover an old book whose contents make it not only rare, but extremely valuable. When she is visited by an interested party, Cassiopeia gets a bad feeling about Roland Beláncourt, who insists that he needs this book. While Cassiopeia is able to dismiss him, Beláncourt persists, telling her all about the history of Catharism, something about which Vitt is familiar. It would seem this book not only speaks of the Cathars, but also speaks of an ancient relic and location that could be key to enlightened discoveries. As Vitt seeks some outside assistance to find this ‘Lake of Learning’, she continues to encounter trouble from Beláncourt, who will stop at nothing to ensure he gets his hands on the book. Vitt does not have Cotton Malone to help her, but she will need to find some way of staying ahead of the the trouble that awaits her. Berry and Rose have come up with an interesting tale here, mixing history with a female protagonist. Recommended to those who have long enjoyed Berry’s work (which includes Cassiopeia) and likely readers who are familiar with Rose’s style of writing. I have long been a fan of Steve Berry’s writing, which has included minor roles for Cassiopeia Vitt. When I noticed that Berry had teamed up with M.J. Rose, I was interested to see how they would elevate this most interesting character without losing some of the intriguing history that is woven throughout each tale. This novella touches on an era that I suspect Rose uses regularly, which meshes well with some of what we know about Cassiopeia. This female protagonist does well guiding the story along. While she is away from the love of her life—Cotton Malone—she does well to keep the reader interested in her medieval building project, which spills into talk of the Cathars. She is by no means a damsel, but also does not seek conflict where she can help it. There are a few other characters whose presence add depth to the story, including the gritty Roland Beláncourt, whose determination helps fuel some clashes surrounding the possession of the book. The story gathers momentum in the early chapters and never loses its speed. I am happy to see an ongoing ability to mix history with action in yet another piece by these two authors. I can only hope that they continues an annual tradition of working together to develop some wonderful stories. Kudos, Mr. Berry and Madam Rose, for an interesting piece that kept me curious throughout. This is a collaboration that is growing on me. Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/ A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sahitya

    I’ve loved Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone series for years now, but have always been fascinated by Cassiopeia as a character, always wishing that she play major roles in Malone’s stories. So, it’s been wonderful to see the author give her a series of her own. While The Museum of Mysteries (my last encounter with Cassiopeia) was an okay read, I still wanted more adventures with her and this book didn’t disappoint. I’m always interested to know which historical aspect Berry would decide to dive into, I’ve loved Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone series for years now, but have always been fascinated by Cassiopeia as a character, always wishing that she play major roles in Malone’s stories. So, it’s been wonderful to see the author give her a series of her own. While The Museum of Mysteries (my last encounter with Cassiopeia) was an okay read, I still wanted more adventures with her and this book didn’t disappoint. I’m always interested to know which historical aspect Berry would decide to dive into, so I was not surprised to be immersed into a new religion, the Cathars, which I knew nothing about. While it’s not possible for a newbie reader like me to discern fact from fiction in the story, I’m amazed by how seamless the incorporation of historical elements was in this book. And I was definitely intrigued by this religion which believed in duality (which is also the basis for the Dvaita school of thought in Hindu philosophy though a bit different) because it feels like such an antithesis to the beliefs of Christianity. Reading about the crusades is always painful, but getting to know that people of the same religion fought and slaughtered because of differences in the way they practiced it was even more horrifying. And as informative as the whole thing was, I also thought it worked wonderfully as the backdrop for this novel, and was exactly what I would usually expect from a full length Malone book. I think the medieval religious historical find worked perfectly for Cassiopeia as well because of her intense respect for historical preservation. This was an adventure that I completely believed she would embark on and I enjoyed following her. She is also a very cool thinker and doesn’t go headlong into confrontations, unlike the heroes we read about in similar spy thrillers. She kept her wits about in every situation and acted at the right moment, only doing what was necessary. I also really liked seeing her as the owner of her family enterprise and how she handles the business, because that’s not a side of her we usually get to see when she is hanging out with Malone. I was also pretty amused by her thoughts about him, remembering his words when finding herself in a bit of a trouble, because he hardly seems to follow those words himself. In the end, this is a short novella which thoroughly entertained me and I didn’t want it to be over. It also had a pretty abrupt ending and could have done with an epilogue or another chapter. If you have enjoyed the Cotton Malone series by Berry and always wanted to know more about Cassiopeia, then this series is perfect for you. It’s also perfect for fans of books which utilize the trope of archeological/historical mysteries being solved in contemporary settings. It is also possible to be read as a standalone, but I don’t know if the emotional connect will be the same as those of us who have known these characters for many books now. Now my only wish is that the author duo decide to make the next book a bit longer.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence A. Beer

    While a very welcomed interlude in the Cotton Malone series, it kind of satisfies the hunger for more stories featuring this heroes ring of supporting characters, I felt the quick predictable ending - SPOILER ALERT - involving a personal vendetta was disappointing. However, the staging of the Cathars in Spain as the story’s launch pad was intriguing and interesting, well researched and presented. Realize this was a novella and hence a condensed book but still longed for a conclusion epitaph that While a very welcomed interlude in the Cotton Malone series, it kind of satisfies the hunger for more stories featuring this heroes ring of supporting characters, I felt the quick predictable ending - SPOILER ALERT - involving a personal vendetta was disappointing. However, the staging of the Cathars in Spain as the story’s launch pad was intriguing and interesting, well researched and presented. Realize this was a novella and hence a condensed book but still longed for a conclusion epitaph that tied all back to the Cathar issue to some greater degree. Cotton’s girlfriend Vitt makes for good heroin but seems a bit silly to inject a simple text from him into the story, telling her to be careful. Either get him involved or not. Just letting her say she mises him and that their relationship is complicated just panders to the overall series. It adds nothing to the storyline in this book. As a pleasant afternoon of reading, I would still recommend it especially for fans of the series.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jo Van Horn

    I enjoy these kind of historical related stories. Some truths some fabrications make a good read. This one was short and fast which is also a treat after reading a 1200 page historical fiction.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Malcolm

    This novella, and "The Museum of Mysteries," represent everything a good novella should provide for readers: strong characters, mysterious stories based on heavily researched history, conflicts that are not easy to resolve, and a compelling storyline that leaves the reader wishing the book went another 500 pages farther than it did. This story focusses on the Cathar religion, a system of beliefs that the Catholic church considered heretical and then killed the adherents in a crusade l This novella, and "The Museum of Mysteries," represent everything a good novella should provide for readers: strong characters, mysterious stories based on heavily researched history, conflicts that are not easy to resolve, and a compelling storyline that leaves the reader wishing the book went another 500 pages farther than it did. This story focusses on the Cathar religion, a system of beliefs that the Catholic church considered heretical and then killed the adherents in a crusade launched in 1209 and later during the inquisition. However, Cathars still exist today, and it's about them--and the discoveries of an old Cathar book of hours--that's the focus of this story. An old book is found on a construction site, and suddenly opposing Papist and Cathar individuals insert themselves into the story, creating a dangerous game for the protagonist Cassiopeia Vitt. Old conflicts die hard, it seems, as those who believe and those who don't believe put Vitt's life, wealth, and company in danger. Books like this not only have compelling stories but teach readers a lot about the subject matter. In this case, the authors' note at the end of the book what separates fact from fiction so that readers can see what's true, what's imaginary (but possible), and where to follow the historical record for themselves. The characters in this novel (both the ones you like the and the ones you don't like) not only have great depth to them, but they're experts in their fields and savvy about everything that surrounds their areas of interest. If you have an interest in the Cathars, you will enjoy this novella. But even if you don't, the fascination of a well-told tale will keep you reading.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Richard West

    This is the second collaboration between Steve Berry and M. J. Rose and the difference between the two is as striking as the difference between night and day. At about 124 pages (not 190 as shown by Goodreads), it's one of those books you can read in one sitting with no problem. It's a stand-alone Cassiopeia Vitt adventure and should thus appeal to Berry fans immediately. The first venture between Berry and Rose was a genuine, certified loser - most people who read it seemed to give i This is the second collaboration between Steve Berry and M. J. Rose and the difference between the two is as striking as the difference between night and day. At about 124 pages (not 190 as shown by Goodreads), it's one of those books you can read in one sitting with no problem. It's a stand-alone Cassiopeia Vitt adventure and should thus appeal to Berry fans immediately. The first venture between Berry and Rose was a genuine, certified loser - most people who read it seemed to give it one star out of kindness - it was steeped in New Age philosophical meanderings and God knows what else which made it less a Berry story and more a Rose one. This one, on the other hand, is pure Berry - it grabs you at the beginning and doesn't let go. Sadly, it does cry out for one more chapter - even just a page - to kind of wrap things up since we're kind of left hanging at the end and wondering what is going to happen. And, it fills the void for those of us who are waiting for the next Berry-written Cotton Mather adventure to come along, as well. It would be nice to see a collection of his ebook-only writings come out for those of us who prefer to read real books as opposed to dots on a screen. That could help fill the void even more!! Meanwhile, grab this one and enjoy it - if you really stretch it, you can read it over two days which is what I did - no sense in reading it all in one day, although the temptation to do so is great!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tracey

    The thing that I enjoyed the most about THE LAKE OF LEARNING, the second collaboration between authors Steve Berry and M.J. Rose, is how much attention to historical detail went into the writing of this book. Yes, liberties were taken, but they were few, and what emerged is a book chock full of interesting facts about the Cathars, along with another mystery to be solved. Given both authors' love of and involvement in history preservation, this book met my expectations, and then some. As with THE MUSEUM The thing that I enjoyed the most about THE LAKE OF LEARNING, the second collaboration between authors Steve Berry and M.J. Rose, is how much attention to historical detail went into the writing of this book. Yes, liberties were taken, but they were few, and what emerged is a book chock full of interesting facts about the Cathars, along with another mystery to be solved. Given both authors' love of and involvement in history preservation, this book met my expectations, and then some. As with THE MUSEUM OF MYSTERIES (Book 2), there is plenty of intrigue, which makes for a more interesting read for me. I would love to see more of Cotton Malone actually solving the mysteries with Cassiopeia, but she's a pretty intrepid sleuth on her own, and does a fine job of getting to the bottom of things. As this is a novella, it is shorter, so more like an amuse bouche, leaving me wanting more, more, more. I look forward to further adventures for Cotton and Cassiopeia, and to learning more about history in the process. In the meantime, this is a fine addition to the series, and one that fans of both Steve Barry and M.J. Rose will enjoy.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Marti

    Lake of Learning by Steve Berry and MJ Rose is an offshoot of the Cotton Malone books. This book focuses on Cassiopeia Vitt who is presently building an authentic French castle using 13th century techniques. While she was having a test ditch dug, a golden box was found with an old copy of The Book of Hours. Obviously, the book is old and valuable, so it is put to the side until Cassiopeia finds out more about it. The next day is when the adventure starts, people showing up to buy the book and so Lake of Learning by Steve Berry and MJ Rose is an offshoot of the Cotton Malone books. This book focuses on Cassiopeia Vitt who is presently building an authentic French castle using 13th century techniques. While she was having a test ditch dug, a golden box was found with an old copy of The Book of Hours. Obviously, the book is old and valuable, so it is put to the side until Cassiopeia finds out more about it. The next day is when the adventure starts, people showing up to buy the book and someone trying to steal it. Cassiopeia has to follow the clues to find the truth. Once again, I found myself reading quickly in pace so I could know what is going to happen next. The information about the Cathars was fascinating to me. While reading, I found myself wondering where that line is between reality and fiction. It was blurred perfectly and I loved reading the story! I liked how this book was shorter than Steve Berry’s book usually are, so I could read it quickly. I liked how Cassiopeia searched for answers and I liked the bad guy being bad. Lake of Learning by Steve Berry and MJ Rose was a fun, hold on to your seats, read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    dennis barron

    The Lake of Learning Steve Berry M.J. Rose Cathars, a sect or religion practiced by thousands . The Pope viewed them as heretics. In 1208, he decides to eliminate them. Erase them from the face of the earth. His armies does just that. The Cathars cease to exist. In the present day they are very secretive and as in the past non violent. But, in the end their leader in France will resort to this, but in self defense. Cassiopeia Witt has discovered an ancient book of the Cathars while excavatin The Lake of Learning Steve Berry M.J. Rose Cathars, a sect or religion practiced by thousands . The Pope viewed them as heretics. In 1208, he decides to eliminate them. Erase them from the face of the earth. His armies does just that. The Cathars cease to exist. In the present day they are very secretive and as in the past non violent. But, in the end their leader in France will resort to this, but in self defense. Cassiopeia Witt has discovered an ancient book of the Cathars while excavating on the grounds of her castle she is restoring. It is a extremely valuable form of an illustrative manuscript, the Cathars bible I will describe it as. Two people want it. One for revenge, the other a prominent member of Catharism. Non stop action from start to finish. Enjoyed immensely!!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kyle Davis

    Cassopia Vitt is a great character in Steve Berry's Cotton Malone Universe. She is a strong female with a variety of talents and always seems to be an asset to the story. This was no different. I am glad that she is getting some attention in this novella, but I would have liked this story more if it were a full novel. The history, as always with Steve Berry, was intreguing and fun. A rare book find that leads to a "secret" society/religion being involved in finding their holy grail is a solid st Cassopia Vitt is a great character in Steve Berry's Cotton Malone Universe. She is a strong female with a variety of talents and always seems to be an asset to the story. This was no different. I am glad that she is getting some attention in this novella, but I would have liked this story more if it were a full novel. The history, as always with Steve Berry, was intreguing and fun. A rare book find that leads to a "secret" society/religion being involved in finding their holy grail is a solid story that could have been fleshed out to fill several hundred more pages. I think that I might like this idea more than a few of Steve's other full-size books. All that being said, I liked it and I bet you will too if you give it a chance.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Soren

    Vitt books will never even get close to Malone books. This one had way too many religious sentences and quotes. The idea that 2 renowned archeologists would open relics found on site (twice) is pretty stupid and so unrealistic no matter what circumstances. The narrator’s french is really good - but it does make it difficult for the non french speaking audience at times. Also what happened to the post credit comments about what is taken from historical documents? Or is all thi Vitt books will never even get close to Malone books. This one had way too many religious sentences and quotes. The idea that 2 renowned archeologists would open relics found on site (twice) is pretty stupid and so unrealistic no matter what circumstances. The narrator’s french is really good - but it does make it difficult for the non french speaking audience at times. Also what happened to the post credit comments about what is taken from historical documents? Or is all this pure fiction?

  12. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Gill

    Another exciting story involving Cassiopeia Vitt! The finds a golden box in the gounds of a site where she is excavating and rebuilding a castle. The contents of the box brings interest from two people, one wants to buy it and is willing to pay greats sums to get it, the other tries to steal it but then finds another way to see what is in the box. The box reveals a great treasure and the three are on a hunt.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    Superb, as always! I'm delighted to see Ms. Vitt again at the center of a story as rich and full of history of any of the pages she shares with Cotton. Berry is a master of keeping his readers turning pages while he teaches us about yet segment of history unknown to many (most?) of us, and this novella is no exception. I hope he (along with his co-writers) keeps them coming for the foreseeable future and then some!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Mcnair

    I am a huge fan of Steve Berry's books and especially the character of Cotton Malone and Cassiopeia Vitt. This was centered on Cassiopeia who uncovers something while they are digging at the castle she is restoring. Of course the relic leads to some ancient secrets. Unfortunately the ending was too anticipated and disappointing.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jan Bandich

    I love these novellas that are co-written by Steve Berry and M.J. Rose. It's great to see Cassiopeia Vitt come into her own and have her own stories and she is an interesting character and is competent at whatever she undertakes. They are a quick read, thank goodness, because they are very hard to put down. I enjoy the description of the settings and her adventures.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    A vaguely ok novella set in the Steve Berry world. A little underwhelming. Feel like it is starting to head down a James Patterson hole where the original author starts almost selling off his characters and just starts "presenting" them. Or whatever my brain is trying to say in amidst this giant fibro fog. Ugh.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sue Watson

    Interesting novella The subject matter is fascinating and descriptions of the historical matters are well researched and explained. I'm left with feeling that the story isn't finished and that the writing in the last third was a bit disjointed.

  18. 4 out of 5

    nikkia neil

    I love a story that has history as its main roots. The Cathars and the landscape of France are just as big a part of this series as Vitt. M. J. Rose and Steve Berry write the perfect novellas together. Can't wait to read more! This ARC was provided in exchange for a honest review.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Margarita Rosado

    I am delighted with the character of Cassiopeia, so resourceful, strong, smart and witty. The second delivery handling her as the main character only adds at this feeling that a worthy-by-herself character has arisen. I enjoyed a lot the storyline, specially because I really did not know much about Cathars but, at the same time, it didn't feel like a History class. I'm looking forward the next Cassiopeia case.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Du

    2.5 Stars. Decent start to the story, but 75% in, it felt like the book softened and wilted. I wish there was less reminder that Cotton Malone isn't in the book. The general topic was fine, but frame too common to these styles of book (secret sects of religious groups).

  21. 5 out of 5

    Charles Collyer

    A novella, set in the south of France where research on the past is active on more than one time scale. Interesting for its description of medieval Cathar philosophy and religion, which here largely provides the motive for murder.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Diane wight

    Very good read A typical m in rose story. Many twists and turns. Again learned something new.. Always enjoy her books can wait to get next one

  23. 4 out of 5

    Juliana

    So so I suppose you can only do so much character and plot development in approximately 144 pages. The story was predictable and only so so.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Johnson

    An archeological renovation digs up a sacred religious book. It is stolen, it is recovered, it is analyzed. That's about it....oh yeh....murder too.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Grace Freeman

    I always want these shorter stories to be full novels... be more flushed out... Also want more Cotton Malone.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ulrike

    Huge fan of Cotton but just not so into Cassiopeia. I only read her adventures to get a glimpse of Cotton! He wasn't in this novella except as a few mentions

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Baratta

    Awesome story MJ Rose and Steve Berry weave an incredible tale of history with fiction and heartbreaking details for characters not Cassiopeia.

  28. 5 out of 5

    David Smith

    This short book was not as interesting to me as the longer ones, but still worth reading.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sherry D'ambrosio

    Nice collaboration. Picks up on the ancient religion discussed in previous books.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chuck

    Short quick interested but not very engrossing

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