Saturday, October 11, 2008

Review: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

In the summer of 1348 The Black Plague came to England. It started in the ports of the south and spread, along with panic and fear, throughout the country. Many towns closed their doors and refused to allow entry to any traveller passing by. Despite their attempts to avert the disease, huge numbers died and the population was reduced to lawlessness, starvation and poverty.

Karen Maitland's new book is set during this turbulent time and brings together nine strangers who band together for safety while fleeing north, trying to stay one step ahead of the spreading pestilence. Camelot, an elderly peddler of holy relics, is the central character and the narrator of the story. The other travellers are Rodrigo, a Master musician, and his pupil Jofre; Zophiel, a magician and sideshow man; Adela, a young pregnant woman, and her husband Osmond; Pleasance, a healer and midwife; Cygnus, a young storyteller with one human arm and one swan's wing. Last, but not least, is Narigorm, a creepy ten year old fortune teller. (It's no accident that the letters of her name, unscrambled, spell the name of an ancient Irish goddess of strife and destruction.)

Each member of the company has a story to tell and each is hiding a deep secret. Their journey will bring trials, despair and tragedy. This is a story filled with twists and turns as the fate of each character plays out. The author has drawn on ancient lore, myths and legends to weave together a haunting and eerie tale of suspense.

While the ending doesn't quite tie up all the loose ends, I never saw the surprise twist coming and I love it when an author can shake up the story just when you think you have it all figured out! This is a really different and interesting take on a historical novel and I really enjoyed it.

Company of Liars is published by Delacorte Press. ISBN 978-0-385-34169-1

Order Company of Liars from Amazon


Carrie K. said...

I'm at the beginning of this right now - glad to hear you liked it.

Lenore said...

So excited about this one!!!

Jeane said...

It sounds faintly like Chaucer's Canterbury Tales to me- the group of strangers travelling together- but well, I never did finish that.

Becca said...

The mix of characters sounds really interesting. And with an ‘eerie tale of suspense,’ ‘myths and legends,’ and a twist you don’t see coming all in a historical novel it is irresistible to me. I need to read this.

tashiana said...

i'm seeing that we have very different tast in books lol but i love your reviews they define short and sweet
as for this book, i'm very interested in the black plague theme
someone has a swan for an arm? ok the author was seriously just throwing that in there lol

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About Me

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New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.