Book Review: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

The book begins in 1348, and news of the plague has reached England.  As the first victims begin to fall, panic begins to spread.  Under strained circumstances, where no-one is willing to completely trust another, a diverse group of people are brought together, for no matter how suspicious you are, you will not survive alone.

This company comprises of Camelot, a disfigured travelling relic-seller and pedlar of hope; Zophiel, a magician and conjuror with a wagon full of secrets; Rodrigo, a musician and his apprentice, Jofre, both natives of Venice; Osmund and Adela, a young couple on the run, and who are expecting their first child; Pleasance, a herbalist and midwife; Cygnus a storyteller with one arm and one wing and finally, a small strange girl, Narigorm, who reads the runes.

The company are forced to travel around in England in an attempt to out-run the plague as it begins sweeping across the country, but that is not the only danger.  Food is scarce; the land is slowly starving as a result of bad weather and poor harvests, and everyone has secrets, dark secrets that they want to ensure remain hidden at all costs.  But as the book description explains:…the lies you tell will be the death of you.

Company of Liars is absorbing, compelling reading.  It is easy to get lost in Medieval England as Karen Maitland provides accurately vivid descriptions of both the places the company visit and the people they meet on their travels.

Religion, superstition, fear, persecution, desperation…Company of Liars has it all.  Everything about this book is engaging and more than anything, I had to keep reading to learn whether or not the plague would finally catch up with them, and if it did, who would survive.  There were many twists and turns in the plot to keep you guessing as to how the story would conclude.

Overall, Company of Liars was one of the best historical fiction novels I have read.  I expected no less from Karen Maitland and wasn’t disappointed.

I recommend this book to all lovers of historical fiction.  A great read!