Thursday, October 30, 2008

Book Review: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

In 1348, a group of travelers thrown together by fate, each with their own dark secret, is trying to outrun the plague as it sweeps across England.

The novel is narrated by a scarred old Camelot who has been on the road for years pedaling fake holy relics. The Camelot is soon joined by a diverse cast of characters including a pregnant woman and her husband, a musician and his apprentice, a magician, a healer, a storyteller, and a young girl who reads the runes. As the title suggests, each in the company is lying about something, though most of the lies are quite easy to figure out long before the truth is revealed.

Author Karen Maitland excels at setting the scene of the story – the historical details are grinded into the plot rather than left in lumps of exposition which makes for a vivid and compelling reading experience. There was also a tinge of the mystical and the occult in the narrative, which makes sense considering the superstitions of the time. Oh and it has one of the most chilling endings I’ve ever read (especially after going back to read the prologue again).

In a story set in this turbulent time, it’s no spoiler to say that death awaits some of the characters. But strangely enough, I was not emotionally attached to any of the characters (save Camelot) to be more than mildly concerned for them and certainly no one’s fate touched me so much that I had to shed any tears. I don’t know if this was because most of the characters were vaguely unlikable and spent a lot of the time bickering or if was something more intangible.

Thanks to LibraryThing for the Early Review copy. Company of Liars is out in hardcover now.

7 comments:

Ladytink_534 said...

Sounds like an interesting story! I know I've never read anything set in that time period before!

bermudaonion said...

I tried to get this one from Early Reviewers, too. I'm not complaining, though, because I got another book that looks great. Thanks for the review!

Lenore said...

ladytink - It is interesting definitely! But it's more of a "head" book than a "heart" book. If you want a weeper, then Connie Willis' Doomsday Book is a great one. I've also read The Plague Tales by Ann Benson and I'd like to read Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks - all set during the black death.

Lenore said...

bermudaonion - Which one did you get? I was very lucky to get this one - 1750 requests for 20 copies!!

bookroomreviews said...

I like your point about the ending, I would agree and also about not being attatched to the characters. This book didn't go quickly for me for some reason,but I liked it, not loved it. I still need to write my review LOL

librarian said...

Just last night my 90 year old mom asked me to find this book for her.fortunately I came across your review this morning .enjoy your blog greatly.

Christopher Meades said...

Thanks for the review.....I'm totally going to check this out.....