Friday Fiction #8

With Halloween only a couple of weeks away Jade continues her season of horror with a dark tale of plague & pestilence…

Company of Liars
Karen Maitland

Fiction Collection


We find ourselves in 14th Century England & the plague has crept its way onto British shores; terror & pestilence has the isle thoroughly in its grip with many losing everything they hold dear. Karen Maitland’s gripping novel, ‘Company of Liars’ tackles the Black Death & the terrifying helplessness left in its wake.

Maitland has created some fascinating characters, each of them painted with depth and their own interesting backstories. Camelot is the old relic seller who begins the journey & gather his fellow mismatched travellers along the way. With characters like Cygnus, a one armed storyteller, the strange Rune reading girl, Narigorm & the angry magician, Zophiel, there are plenty of interesting backstories & tales to be told. And of course, it’s hard to go wrong with a band of misfits! As the title suggests, each one is a liar in their own way, the twists & turns as each is revealed are extremely enjoyable, if a little dark & disturbing.

Company of Liars’ is well written with an extremely engrossing story & layered with fine detail throughout, demonstrating very thorough research by the author. Maitland paints a grim but compelling picture of Britain cloaked in a heavy atmosphere of fear & confusion during one of the darkest events of English history.

The story is in the vein of many modern post-apocalypse films as the plague was so horrifically devastating that Britain was left mangled and a shell of its former self. Between 1348 & 1350 roughly half of England’s population died from the Black Death, a period of just two short years. A country already rife with superstition was left in a state of despairing paranoia.

The book is relentlessly bleak & but the mystery & surprising twists will keep you enthralled all the way to the unexpected conclusion.

Jade Hunter
Library & Digital Assistant

How Company of Liars came to be written – Karen Maitland

“…In 2002, I was commissioned by the National Rural Touring Company in Britain to travel for three months from Cumbria to Cornwall with a multicultural show which was performed in rural village halls. My role was to write a book about the tour.

We travelled in winter, often becoming lost in the dark country lanes. Many of the places on the tour were ancient medieval villages, and I wondered what it would have been like to earn your living on the road in the Middle Ages, cold, wet and hungry, never knowing what was waiting around the next bend…

Bad enough in normal times, but during the Black Death when any stranger coming to a village might be bringing the plague, travellers who were shunned by the community would find themselves fighting for their very lives. And so the novel Company of Liars was born…”


Publisher’s blurb:

‘…The year is 1348 and the first plague victim has reached English shores. Panic erupts around the country and a small band of travellers comes together to outrun the deadly disease, unaware that something far more deadly is – in fact – travelling with them.

The ill-assorted company – a scarred trader in holy relics, a conjurer, two musicians, a healer and a deformed storyteller – are all concealing secrets and lies. And at their heart is the strange, cold child – Narigorm – who reads the runes.

But as law and order breaks down across the country and the battle for survival becomes ever more fierce, Narigorm mercilessly compels each of her fellow travellers to reveal the truth … and each in turn is driven to a cruel and unnatural death…’