I felt like I should share the books I have been enjoying. And so, I will. I just finished reading Company of Liars by Karen Maitland. This is a historically relevant fiction spin-off of the Canterbury Tales. It is creative and engaging. The characters have believable strengths and flaws, both endearing and annoying.
Set in England, circa the 1400′s, a story of nine wayward misfits who come together by chance attempting to escape their pasts, as well as the Black plague. There is Camelot, the one-eyed elderly man selling hope in relics; Rodrigo, the passionate musical performer, and his promising, yet, troubled student, Jofre; Zophiel, the narcissistic magician; naive Adela, who is pregnant and should not be on the open road, and Osmond, her serious but devoted husband; Cygnus, the one-winged man accused of a heinous murder; Pleasance, the healer; and the eerily strange, devious albino child she has unofficially adopted, Narigorm.
Their journey is arduous and wet. It hasn’t stopped raining for months. Imagine traveling by foot or by wagon and horse on dirt roads, through forests and swamps, with constant rain! EGADS! That would be horrible.
The author does justice to the time period, researching interesting facts to make the story more believable. In a dark time this lost and confused, wayward band find protection, comfort and often suspicion in one another and in their beliefs in the supernatural, spells, relics, charms and folklore of the time.
But it isn’t just the Black Plague these nine must avoid along their way to an unspecified destination. They have to avoid supernatural predators, everyday hassles, angry mobs, and other dangers presented in the medieval times. They have nothing but one another and their limited shared resources. But can they really trust each other? They do not actually know each other and most of them know the others have lied about something or are running from something in their pasts, but what? And how will this affect them?
Where will they end up? How will they be betrayed? Will they survive? (Read the book to find out!)
An interesting side-theme in this book is the way the story demonstrates the religious journey for the side-characters, the villagers these nine pass in traveling. The plague and death must have taken its toll on the religious beliefs of people during this time. Was this the catalyst for the Enlightenment? The book tells how the people turned to God and the Church, which they were taught to do since birth. Then as death smothers all around them, they first try to cling to their religion and their priests, who often take advantage of them. Soon, the Church and the priests abandon them altogether to perish. Alone, they begin to question their beliefs. This is interesting to me, historically speaking. Don’t worry, this book is not religious. This was just a back burner theme I picked up on and found intriguing.
This book provided a engaging tale and motivated me to research more about that time period. Overall, I am extremely pleased with the read. This is the first book I have read by this author, I will be looking for more.
I definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes a good story, strong characters or anyone who has an interest in history (or historical fiction), particularly the medieval times.