Reviewed by Colleen Turner
If you have never read a book by M.J. Rose then you are missing out on an immersive, sensual adventure that twists and turns through time and across the world, one that is laced with mystery, romance and heartbreak unlike anything else I’ve read. In her Reincarnationist series she introduces us to an unforgettable character named Jac L’Etoile, a woman from a long and illustrious line of French perfumers who has continually fought against her abilities to experience past life memories, her own as well as others, and who has spent her life trying to debunk the mysteries of the past in order to make sense of the mysteries surrounding her in the present. In The Collector of Dying Breaths, Jac will be forced to face her abilities head on and to trust in not only those abilities but in the people closest to her if she stands a change of finding some peace in a life that has been marred by tragedy.
When Jac’s life is turned upside down (once again) by the death of one of the people closest to her (no spoilers for those who know the series) she is thrust into contact with Melinoe Cypros, an eccentric and cunning heiress who wants Jac to decipher the work of the 16th century perfumer Rene le Florentin and use it to figure out the formula to reanimate a person’s dying breath. Taking on this project will also bring Jac’s one and only love, Griffin North, back into her life, a man she has loved not only in this life but in all others and whom she has caused the death of in each previous life. Even as Jac initially tries to refuse Melinoe’s offer she soon gives into the temptation of finishing Rene’s work and possibly finding a way to bring back her loved one. But agreeing to Melinoe’s terms to work on the formula at her opulent home in the forests of Fontainebleau, a home dripping with the priceless art collection Melinoe is determined to keep in this life and the next, brings Jac into the lair of a conniving, ruthless woman who will do anything to get what she wants. And what she wants might just cost Jac everything.
Weaved together with Jac’s story is that of Rene, the man who rose from nothing to become the perfumer to Catharine de Medici. This great honor comes with a heavy price, however, and Rene finds himself also creating poisons for his queen to use against her enemies and continuing his mentor’s work of discovering the secret to bringing back the dead. As Rene trusts Queen Catharine he does not question what she asks of him. But when Rene falls in love with one of Catharine’s ladies in waiting he discovers just how dangerous this Medici princess can be.
It is hard to find exactly where to begin my praise of The Collector of Dying Breath because I just loved it all! The meticulous sensory descriptions work to transport the reader through time much as Jac experiences it and it is hard not to feel the joy, passion and pain of the characters. The depths of obsession experienced by both Catharine and Melinoe and the lengths they both will go to to get what they desire is quite frightening and adds a heavy dose of shock, terror and passion to the suspenseful plots. I have long hoped that Griffin and Jac would somehow come together and watching their connection unfold alongside Rene and his love pulls at the heartstrings. Combine all of this emotion with the detailed and immersive history and the reincarnation twist and what isn’t there to love?
My only complaint would be that the story ended too soon for me and, from the ending, I have a very sad feeling that this might conclude Jac’s story. I truly hope I am wrong because I, for one, want more. This series is something not to miss, regardless of which book you decide to start with. They are magical.
Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.
Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Atria Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.