Book Review: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

2761171Title: Company of Liars

Author: Karen Maitland

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery and Suspense

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Amazon

In this extraordinary novel, Karen Maitland delivers a dazzling reinterpretation of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales–an ingenious alchemy of history, mystery, and powerful human drama.
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.

It’s been three days since I finished “Company of Liars” and I’m still not sure what to think of it. Part of the novel is dark, disturbing and unsettling, and the other part is mostly ‘meh’. In this book, we meet with nine travellers, joined together by fate more than anything else, who try to escape from the Plague wrestling its wray through England. The protagonist, Camelot, a scarred, one-eyed seller of relics, is a cynical, sarcastic protagonist, but nevertheless enjoyable to read about. There’s a bunch of superstitution thrown in as well, folklore, and the presence of an unknown evil, which we never truly meet, but is almost certainly there. Whether it is the wolves of the Bishop, as one of the characters proclaims at some point during their trip, or destiny, or the Plague itself, its chasing them, and sending a sense of dread and foreboding at our little group.

While I generally liked the plot, the references and reimagining of the Canterbury Tales by Chaucer, I wasn’t too impressed by the writing. Some passages were pure gold, with descriptions so masterfully crafted they made me jealous. But the pacing was off sometimes, and generally very slow. It took pages and pages to progress from one place to the other, and we got way too much time stuck inside Camelot’s head, which made me feel claustrophobic.

The ending was a bit disappointing. Up until then, most of the folklore and superstition had been reduced to just that – folklore and superstition. But then, the book takes a complete turn, throw in some supernatural elements and decides to call that an ending. Not that impressive.

Nevertheless, I did enjoy this book. It’s an intriguing mix of historical fiction, mystery, suspense and atmospheric writing. Too bad for the ending and the dragging passages, or it would’ve been an absolutely great read.

Speak Your Mind