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The Gallows Curse [Paperback]

Karen Maitland
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
Price: 3.86 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

15 Mar 2012

The thirteenth-century is just begun and King John has fallen out with the Pope, leaving babies to lie unbaptized in their cradles and corpses in unconsecrated ground. Across a fear-ravaged England, the people are dying in sin.

In the village of Gastmere, this has shocking consequences for servant girl Elena. Unwittingly drawn into a macabre scheme to absolve dying Lord Gerard of his crimes, death and betrayal haunt her dreams like a curse.

And when Elena is threatened with hanging for a murder she did not commit, it is certain that unnatural conspiracy lies behind these dark deeds. But where can she turn? For in every face lies wickedness and in every shadow lurks treachery . . .

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The Gallows Curse + The Owl Killers + The Falcons of Fire and Ice
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Product details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (15 Mar 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0141047445
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141047447
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 59,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A ripping tale set in the year of 1210. Full of colour and detail (Daily Telegraph)

Maitland's richest yet: a breathless romp through an England rendered spiritually desolate. Bubbles over with the exploits of desperate priests, scheming herbalists, torturous conspirators, a dwarf-sized madam and a plot of treason against the King (Metro)

Bawdy and brutal (Simon Mayo)

A gem of a story. Meticulously researched and told with blood-curdling relish, this is a tale that will keep you awake at night (News of the World)

A richly evocative page-turner which brings to life a lost and terrible period of British history, with a disturbing final twist worthy of a master of the spine-tingler, such as Henry James (Daily Express)

Karen Maitland neatly catches the spirit of primitive superstition (Daily Express)

About the Author

Karen Maitland travelled and worked in many parts of the United Kingdom before finally settling in the beautiful medieval city of Lincoln. She is the author of The White Room, Company of Liars and The Owl Killers. The latter two titles are available as Penguin paperbacks.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I tried, I really did 20 Nov 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I absolutely loved Maitland's previous two novels, and couldn't wait to get started on this one. I was expecting, I suppose, the same precarious dark ride through the early middle ages, with strong characters and a plot you could belong to. That doesn't happen here. I really really tried to like this book, particularly after some of the very positive reviews I read here (I had to keep coming back and reading them, to keep myself going). In the end, after page 270, I gave up. I just did not care enough about the characters or what was going to happen to them. Neither Elena or Raffe seemed particulary well-drawn, neither had much depth, and an awful lot of the plot development seemed quite random. It's not clear why Raffe wants to protect her, or at least why he seems to fall in love with her, why the brothers Osborn and Hugh seem so intent on hunting her (a villein) down, so much was simply unexplained. And at the end of the day, rather dull. I had no interest in what happened next - the only reason I read so far was in the hope that the cunning woman might do something. A vain hope. Not at all the ripping tale the newspaper quotes promised.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Karen Maitland's best yet 8 Mar 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
Like Karen Maitland's other two books, Company of Liars and The Owl Killers (both great, by the way), this is a complex, labyrinthine mystery set in medieval England. The Interdict of 1208 forms the background for the plot, which concerns two main characters. The first is Elena, a 15-year-old serving girl who becomes a runaway, and later finds herself tricked into prostitution, after she's accused of killing her own baby. The second is Raffaelle, a tortured, revenge-hungry lord who is forced out of his manor by the brothers he holds responsible for his own agonies during the Crusades, as well as those of his late best friend and master Gerard. There are twists, turns and deaths galore as Raffaelle and Elena, both separately and together, attempt to outwit the treacherous Osborn and Hugh, making plenty of friends and enemies along the way.

Having enjoyed the author's previous novels so much, I expected a lot from The Gallows Curse, and it didn't disappoint. The characters are wonderful. Elena seems to be a bit of a cliché at first (innocent, beautiful young girl who has just about every tragedy possible thrown at her and survives despite the odds) but I found myself warming to her more and more as the story went on. As you see the horror and loneliness of life as a runaway villein and an unwilling whore through Elena's eyes, you end up rooting for her to make it through and get revenge on her tormentors. In Raffaelle, meanwhile, Maitland has created a fascinating, flawed, contradictory antihero and probably my favourite character of all the books I've read recently. He's simultaneously repulsive and entrancing, hateful and heroic.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Gallows Curse 23 Mar 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It is 1210 and King John is on the throne - but this is no medieval bodice ripper, this is dark and dangerous historical fiction. Following on from the excellent "Company of Liars" and "The Owl Killers" is this latest outing by Karen Maitland. They are all stand alone books, but there are certain themes that run through them all. Superstition and magic abounds in a time when people believed truly in spells, relics and potions. People lived where they were born and most rarely travelled; so even when our heroine, Elena, visits the nearest town, it overwhelms her. Karen Maitland is a very descriptive writer, bringing the places, people and time to life. She also interweaves several storylines and characters. The book is not confusing, although you do have to concentrate and there is a list of characters to refer to at the beginning of the book until you have them all straight in your head!

We follow Elena, at first happy and in love, content with her lot, until she is plucked from the obscurity of manual labour to work in the manor house. Pope Innocent III has placed the kingdom of England under an interdict after King John refused to accept the pope's appointee Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury. The Church's sacraments have been withdrawn from the people - including the last rights. Tricked into unwittingly and unknowingly taking a dead mans sins, Elena begins to have bad dreams. The whole situation begins to spiral out of control, as Elena becomes no longer sure about whether her dreams are real and what she is capable of doing. As life at the manor begins to fall apart, so does Elena's life collapse with it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Book 10 May 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Very atmospheric novel that really sort of put you in situ as you are reading it. There were a lot of medieval words used that were explained and this added interest. Could not put it down at first but felt it lost a bit of steam half way through and the plot got it bit unnecessarily complicated. However I will try more of her novels to see how they match up.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars unnecessarily complicated plot 7 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The basic premise/plot line of the book falls apart less than half way through. If the mother and daughter witches have enough power to do some quite strong magic by themselves, then there is absolutely no need to use Elena, ruin her,her son's life and her husband's also, in order to get their revenge on someone not connected to her. That whole plot line seemed really pointless, and very sad. I enjoyed KM's first 2 books immensely but this one I struggled to finish; and the weird speeches of the mandrake really irritated.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Narrated by a Mandrake...........a root that looks like a small man or...
Once again a novel set during the Dark Ages. King John has banned priests from doing anything under penalty of death. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Pyewacket
2.0 out of 5 stars Oh dear- tedious and silly! (especially the audio version!)
Just to be clear, I'm reviewing the (unabridged) audio version of this novel. I got this download through audible, and found it such tedious trial, took advantage of the audible... Read more
Published 2 months ago by K. Chapman
1.0 out of 5 stars Utterly depressing
Very well researched, but the story is improbable, deeply disturbing and upsetting in some places, with a terrible ending. There's three days of my life I won't be getting back. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Sarah Sprules
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent novel
Excellent storyline, not sure how historically correct it is but the characters are believable

Certainly will be buying more Karen Maitland books.
Published 3 months ago by Happy customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I loved company of liars, so was hoping this novel would be just as good. I was wrong, I really found this book disappointing and complicated at times to follow. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Beki Marsland
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
A good book to read one that I would highly recommend to my friends I really enjoyed it. Thank you
Published 5 months ago by CLIFF
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining read.
Whilst, for me, this novel didn't engaged as much as its predecessors Company of Liars and The Owl Killers its evocation of Medieval England and the delicious mix of natural and... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Ruby
5.0 out of 5 stars Don-Hawkwind
I do wish Amazon would give more time to give the reader a little more time to actually read the purchase before asking for reviews. Read more
Published 7 months ago by don hawkwind
5.0 out of 5 stars great read
love all karen maitlands books. good historic reads that you can really get gripped by. always make you feel like you are there and can hear and smell the place they are set.
Published 9 months ago by carolmac
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
The story was well told and gave a fascinating and interesting view of what life was like in the 13th century. The explanation at the be
Published 10 months ago by Tony E.
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