Book Review: Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

Company of Liars

company of liars

Here is the blurb on Goodreads:

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.

In my own words, Company of Liars is centred around a wide range of medieval characters escaping the plague together, who each hold their own secrets and lies which are exposed throughout the books.

However, I’d like to start off by saying that although the plague is obviously a major theme (of course it is, it’s advertised on the cover as ‘a novel of the plague’), the real focus is on the characters and their often tragic stories. This is much a book about human nature as the Middle Ages, which makes the characters easier to understand and empathise with throughout this emotional journey. We experience, through Camelot’s eyes, intimate moments of fear and love and death, with lies and secrets more terrifying and dangerous than The Pestilence itself, as it was called back then.

What I like about this was that Maitland weaved in aspects of history and myth together; the perfect blend which encapsulates ordinary Medieval life and thinking. I also loved the characterisation, and with such a wide variety of characters and personalities it’s easy to see the potential clashes which sustain tension throughout the book. I did feel like some stories felt a bit flat, and some secret reveals were a little disappointing (Zophiel!!). However, Maitland planted lots of entertaining hints in the text for each character’s secret – sometimes I got it and felt very smug, and sometimes when they revealed their secret I wanting to slap myself remembering all the hidden clues.

The one thing that stopped me from giving Company of Liars a full five star rating was the ending: most reviews I’ve seen have also complained about the disappointing ending. It wasn’t necessarily the last page that was bad but I felt like the last few chapters didn’t really wrap everything up. Maybe I was just hoping for a happier ending but I wished Camelot had revealed his secret in front of everyone or something. I don’t know, I was just left wanting something more.

Even with the ending, I can still forgive Maitland for giving us a book with a riveting plot and a brilliant insight into the Middle Ages without being a history book.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed my review! For my Goodreads account with a much shorter review, click here. Feel free to write your thoughts on Company of Liars if you’ve read it too.

—ella ❤


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