Historical novels are the love of my life (apart from my wife and kids that is), and this is very probably one of the very best I've ever read.
The year is 1348, when the plague laid most of Europe waste. Camelot is a seller of fake relics, and when the plague reaches England he decides to try and outrun it, heading north. Along the way, he picks up other misfits until they make up a company of nine: the Venetian musician Rodrigo and his pupil Jofre, the one-armed storyteller Cygnus, the painter Osmond and his wife Adela who is with child, the conjuror Zophiel, and the midwife Pleasance who has a remarkable, white-haired child with her: Narigorm. Together they set out trying to outrun the plague.
What happens next is an incredibly engrossing story, told with gusto. This is one of those novels that keep you up at night, unable to stop reading, eager to know what'll happen next. England during the plague is described in such telling and colourful details that the place comes alive, and you cannot help but feel 'this is surely how it must have felt like in reality'. England in the grip of the plague swiftly descends into chaos, and lawlessness becomes the rule. And through this bleak landscape, rain constantly pouring down, the nine companions trudge on and slowly get to know each other better.
Before long it becomes clear that each of them has a secret to hide, and none of them is what they make out to be. All have have been beaten down and trodden upon by life's mishaps, and - sometimes for the best of reasons or quite simply because they had no other choice - are now living a lie, haunted by their past.
550 pages of superb entertainment for the price of barely two packs of cigarettes, what are you waiting for?