(Cover picture courtesy of BandelierGirlReadsEverything.)
In 1533, an Italian orphan with an uncanny knack for creating fragrance is plucked from poverty to become Catherine de Medici’s perfumer. To repay his debt, over the years René le Florentine is occasionally called upon to put his vast knowledge to a darker purpose: the creation of deadly poisons used to dispatch the Queen’s rivals.
But it’s René other passion—a desire to reanimate a human breath, to bring back the lives of the two people whose deaths have devastated him—that incites a dangerous treasure hunt five centuries later. That’s when Jac L’Etoile—suffering from a heartache of her own—becomes obsessed with the possibility of unlocking Rene’s secret to immortality.
Soon Jac’s search reconnects her with Griffin North, a man she’s loved her entire life. Together they confront an eccentric heiress whose art collection rivals many museums and who is determined to keep her treasures close at hand, not just in this life but in her next.
Set in the forest of Fontainebleau, crisscrossing the lines between the past and the present, M.J. Rose has written a mesmerizing tale of passion and obsession. This is a gothic tale perfect for fans of Anne Rice, Deborah Harkness, and Diana Galbadon.
[Full disclosure: I was provided a free ebook through NetGalley for the blog tour in exchange for an honest review.]
If I had to describe The Collector of Dying Breaths in just one word it would have to be ‘beautiful.’ Yes, beautiful.
Beautiful is the word that comes to mind simply because M. J. Rose’s writing style is just that. It’s descriptive, but not overly so. It’s very heavily focused on appealing to the reader’s five senses. Since this is a novel heavily centred around perfume of course she describes the scents in pretty much every scene, but she also doesn’t neglect the reader’s ears or sense of touch. Very few writers can appeal to all five of the senses in a natural way but M. J. Rose stands out in this respect.
As with most books, the one element I liked most was the characters. René le Florentine really spoke to me as a character and through the flashbacks I felt his triumphs and his greatest sorrows. He really is a tragic character and although he tries to do the right thing, it seems like it always turns out badly for him. I can’t tell you much more about poor René without having too many spoilers but I can tell you that by the end of the novel your heart will ache for him.
Jac is an interesting character as well. Having lost her beloved brother and seeing an opportunity to complete his life’s work, she’s in a state of emotional confusion. Added to that are her constant past life memories that are triggered by being around objects and locations with so much history. I liked slowly learning her back-story and seeing how she coped with both her brother’s death and the return of her former lover. She changes throughout the course of the novel and I was very happy with her decision in the end.
The plot is not fast-paced by most people’s standards but The Collector of Dying Breaths is interesting enough to keep you reading into the early morning hours. The plot twists and turns as you try to learn what happened to the unfortunate René and whether Jac could complete her brother’s work or not. These point of view shifts never really slow down the action in the story, though. Instead, they add more tension as the past and present collide, culminating in a heart-pounding climax.
If you like history, romance or just books with well fleshed-out characters, you’re going to love The Collector of Dying Breaths. I can’t speak to its historical accuracy as I know very little about the period, but I guarantee that you’ll feel like you’re right there along with René in the court of Catherine de Medici.
This is the 6th book in The Reincarnationist series by M. J. Rose but it can absolutely be read as a standalone novel, which is how I read it.
I give this book 5/5 stars.