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Company of Liars

by Karen Maitland

      England in 1348 is a primitive, terrifying place.  The Black Plague, or the Pestilence, has begun to manifest in the coastal cities, and to travel inland.  The characters in this story are a strange group, each with a different goal.  The one-eyed and scarred relic-seller Camelot leads a group of nine.  There is the strange white-haired child called Narigorm who reads the runes, and keeps the company on edge with her predictions that seem to always come true.  There is Cygnus, the one-armed boy, a pregnant woman and her artist husband, a cantankerous magician with a horse and wagon who guards his treasures with his life, and finally a musician and his talented apprentice.

As they travel North and East through the rain and icy mud trying to outrun the Pestilence, their own secrets come out, one by one.  Food and shelter is very hard to obtain, and as their resources dwindle, tempers flare. The superstition which dominated life and death in that era is deftly captured by Maitland.

This book has been compared to The Canterbury Tales, but I didn't see that.  Maitland has written an engrossing, entertaining tale that I simply couldn't put down.  It has unexpected turns and a shocking ending that I didn't see coming.

Karen Maitland is a master at characterization and plot.  Her research is impeccable, and she recreates medieval England in a powerful and believable novel that is filled with emotion. This lively, disturbing story, in which nothing is quite what it seems, will stay with you long after you have closed the book.  If you love history and great writing, this book is a winner.

The Book

Delacorte Press
September 30, 2008
0-385-34169-5 / 978-0-385-34169-1
Fiction/ General/ Historical / England, 1348
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The Reviewer

Beverly J. Rowe
Reviewed 2008
NOTE:Reviewer Beverly J. Rowe is's "Babes to Teens" columnist, covering topics related to reading ideas for the youth in the family.
© 2008