- Paperback: 592 pages
- Publisher: Penguin; Reprint edition (26 Feb. 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0141031913
- ISBN-13: 978-0141031910
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.5 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 248 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 186,529 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Company of Liars Paperback – 26 Feb 2009
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'Irresistible' Sunday Telegraph 'An engrossing fireside read ... a compelling mystery' Daily Mail 'Combines the storytelling traditions of The Canterbury Tales with the supernatural suspense of Mosse's Sepulchre in this atmospheric tale of treachery and magic' Marie Claire 'Captivating, unforgettable, truly compelling' InStyle
The year is 1348 and the first plague victim has reached English shores. Panic erupts around the country and a small band of travellers comes together to outrun the deadly disease, unaware that something far more deadly is - in fact - travelling with them. The ill-assorted company - a scarred trader in holy relics, a conjurer, two musicians, a healer and a deformed storyteller - are all concealing secrets and lies. And at their heart is the strange, cold child - Narigorm - who reads the runes. But as law and order breaks down across the country and the battle for survival becomes ever more fierce, Narigorm mercilessly compels each of her fellow travellers to reveal the truth, and each in turn is driven to a cruel and unnatural death.See all Product description
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The year is 1348. The Black Plague grips the country. In a world ruled by faith and fear, nine desperate strangers, brought together by chance, attempt to outrun the certain death that is running inexorably toward them.
Each member of this motley company has a story to tell. From Camelot, the relic-seller who will become the group's leader, to Cygnus, the one-armed storyteller . . . from the strange, silent child called Narigorm to a painter and his pregnant wife, each has a secret. None is what they seem. And one among them conceals the darkest secret of all – propelling these liars to a destiny they never saw coming.
Magical, heart-quickening, and raw, Company of Liars is a work of vaulting imagination from a powerful new voice in historical fiction.
Right, off to purchase another book by Karen Maitland.
The story is told from the viewpoint of Camelot, an old, well-seasoned traveller and trader in relics of more or less dubious origins. He is an astute observer but from the start it becomes clear that we can't trust any one person from the company, happy to bend the truth to meet their needs as they are. Some are more likeable than others, but with the rune-reading girl, Narigorm, Karen Maitland has created a singularly spiteful and malicious character, even more so as she is still only a child. The characterisation is excellent, each person a damaged individual, but where the author excels is in the descriptions of the dripping and frosty landscape and in creating an atmosphere of absolute dread and fear amongst the population in the wake of the ever advancing pestilence. This is a populace well accustomed to hardship and starvation, yet in the face of this seeming apocalypse they are at a loss and are clutching at any straw they can think of: amulets, supposedly holy relics, even a cripples' wedding to ward off the inevitable. This is an age where superstition, faith and witchcraft were still happily sitting side by side, and Karen Maitland succeeds in making us understand the medieval mind-set, not least with the fairly extensive historical notes and glossary in the appendix. It is debatable if the supernatural element that appears to occur in each of her books was necessary to the degree as it's found in this novel, and so opinions will always differ in that respect. The pestilence is always in the background, and we get glimpses of heartbreaking human tragedies that must have happened a thousandfold during those years, thereby enhancing my understanding of this period of history and putting flesh on the historic dates and statistics. I raced through the 500+ pages as I wanted to know what happened next, but the secrets that were revealed by each of the characters were pretty obvious to the attentive reader, and even the supposed final twist came as no surprise, thus falling just short of five stars.
An intelligent and well-researched account of a time in history that now appears almost alien to us with our scientific knowledge and technologies. As always, it amazes me that my and my husband's ancestors managed to live through it or we wouldn't be alive today. Thoroughly recommended.
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