- Fizzy Thoughts: Company of Liars

Company of Liars

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Company of Liars
Karen Maitland
September 2008
480 pages

This book is faintly reminiscent of The Canterbury Tales. Although it's been over 20 years since I've read the Canterbury Tales, so I could be totally off with that statement. But they're both medieval, and involve travellers and stories. And lies. There were lies in The Canterbury Tales, right?

In Company of Liars, we've got nine travellers wandering the English countryside in an attempt to avoid the plague (and their own demons). The cast of characters:

  • Camelot - a disfigured peddler of relics, Camelot intuits some of his fellow travellers secrets. He also attempts to keep the peace, although when it comes to Narigorm, he is totally freaked out.
  • Zophiel - a magician and con man, with an absurd attachment to an embalmed mermaid. Tolerated because he has a horse and wagon. This is pretty much his only redeeming quality.
  • Adela and Osmond - a married couple expecting their first child. Osmond is a painter who no longer paints, although he won't say why.
  • Venetian minstrel Rodrigo and his apprentice Jofre. Jofre is a talented yet troubled youth, and Rodrigo is too tolerant of his misdeeds.
  • Cygnus - a storyteller who longs to be a swan.
  • Pleasance - the quiet midwife/healer, who has taken Narigorm under her wing.
  • Narigorm - a creepy young girl who casts runes, and usually predicts doom and gloom.
Everyone has secrets, and most of the party are quite cagey about their past. As the group travels together and struggles to survive, their secrets are either slowly divulged or discovered. Narigorm lurks in the background and foretells bad shit. And to top it all off, the not so merry band picks up a stalker, in the form of a wolf. This just adds to the creep factor and completely wigs everyone out. So...good times abound.

I really enjoyed this book. The author did a fantastic job of describing the harshness of life in medieval England. Also, each chapter reads like a separate story (although you couldn't read them separately, or out of order). But I liked how when I reached the end of each chapter, it felt like I had just finished a short tale. There is also just a hint of magic going on...or maybe I should say a hint of the possibility of magic. It's enough to make you think you're not quite in England, even though you are. It's just an England ruled by fear and superstition and plague and hunger.

Another also - this is a great cover. Each little picture is representative of something in the story, and it's not as readily apparent as you might think. Mostly it is, but I was lead astray a few times.

While checking out the author's website, I discovered she has another book coming out in September (earlier if you're lucky enough to live in Engalnd). Her next one is titled The Owl-Killers, and I can't wait!

10 comment(s):

charley said...

I haven't heard of this one, but you make it sound very interesting. I'll add it to my list.

Chris said...

Yay! I can't wait to read this one! Carl gave it to me for Christmas last year and I was hoping it was good! Can't wait to read it!

Eva said...

This sounds so cool!

raych said...

Loads of lies. I mean, misinterpretations and misdirections. There are no lies in Literature.

Ali said...

Ooh, this sounds very quirky and interesting, I need to read it.

bkclubcare said...

I've had my eye on this for awhile! It looks great.

Beth F said...

I have wanted to read this since it was first announced. So glad you liked it. I'm trying to decide if I want to listen to it or read it.

chartroose said...

Me wants, me wants!

carolsnotebook said...

This sounds really neat. Another one to add to the never-ending list.

avanta7 said...

I really ought to check your blog more often. This book sounds like it's a perfect fit for my all-consuming interest in anything to do with Medieval Europe and the Plague.

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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