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Karen Maitland

Autor(a) de Company of Liars

16+ Works 3,388 Membros 209 Críticas 14 Favorited

About the Author


Obras por Karen Maitland

Company of Liars (2008) 1,717 exemplares
The Owl Killers (2009) 667 exemplares
The Gallows Curse (2011) 246 exemplares
The Vanishing Witch (2014) 175 exemplares
The Falcons of Fire and Ice (2012) 148 exemplares
The Raven's Head (2015) 126 exemplares
The Plague Charmer (2016) 100 exemplares
The Drowned City (2021) 56 exemplares
A Gathering of Ghosts (2018) 47 exemplares
Liars and Thieves (2014) 32 exemplares
Traitor in the Ice (2022) 28 exemplares
Rivers of Treason (2023) 12 exemplares
The White Room (1996) 10 exemplares
The Dangerous Art of Alchemy (2015) 10 exemplares
A Plague of Serpents 2 exemplares

Associated Works

The Sacred Stone (2010) — Autor — 61 exemplares
Hill of Bones (2011) — Autor — 53 exemplares
The First Murder (1763) — Autor — 47 exemplares
The False Virgin (2013) — Autor — 41 exemplares
The Deadliest Sin (2014) — Autor — 35 exemplares


Conhecimento Comum



OB39: Het gezelschap van Leugenaars - Karen Maitland em FF-Leesclub Forum (Março 2011)


This was cozy and largely entertaining but not totally my cup of tea genre-wise. I thought it was a straight historical fiction novel; unfortunately it gets super fantastical/paranormal towards the end in a way that totally took me out of the world.

Also, holy kill your gays batman. 2008 sure was another time…
Eavans | 114 outras críticas | Dec 7, 2023 |
Set in 1321, this book really exemplifies the old adage about life being "nasty, brutish and short" (I just looked it up and it was coined by Thomas Hobbes in 1651 who apparently wrote how, without central government, there would be no culture or society and people would be at war with each other). The village of Ulewic on the east coast of England is beset by crop failures compounded by serious flooding, cattle disease, pig disease, sicknesses affecting the human population, inbreeding - anyone who really "belongs" has webbed fingers - child abuse, the impossibility of paying the tithe (a tenth of a household's supposed wealth in either coin or goods) to the Church and also the burden of having to pay the tyrannical local lord. On top of all that, there is a nasty protection racket run by men who call themselves the Owl Masters. Their identities are unknown as they dress up in owl masks, but they are able to publicly murder anyone who steps out of line - even for having sex outside marriage, for example - and get away with it. Meanwhile the local priest is too scared to do anything and more worried about his feud with the bishop, which stems from his being caught having illicit sex when he was stationed in Norwich: he has been sent to this benighted coastal village as a punishment.

Into this environment has come a group of women who draw the ire and jealousy of the whole community. The women are beguines, a Medieval lay order which was extensive on the continent but never found a footing in what later became the United Kingdom. The women live a life of useful labour, and use their self-generated wealth to nurse the sick and feed the local poor. Unfortunately, this breeds resentment rather than gratitude, and unfounded accusations that they are whores or witches; ironic in view of the beguines' oath of chastity and their Christian beliefs. Their being 'foreigners' into the bargain makes matters even worse. But at that time women who were living a self supporting communal life without having to depend on men were the target of suspicion and even violence. And so it proves here, especially when the leader of the community, Servant Martha, feels compelled to intercede for a couple of unfortunate local girls.

This was an interesting although very dark read with an extremely brutal peasant lifestyle being vividly invoked. I did know about the beguines, though had not heard before that there was slight evidence that they might have tried to found a community in England. The vicious retalliation unleashed against them is all too convincing. I did wonder though if people at that time really did not know that a stroke was a natural ailment and not something inflicted by devils. It was also a bit sad that what seemed to be survivals of pagan beliefs had been retained only in the negative view of the Church - so that the mother goddess had been translated into Black Anu, a witch figure that lived in water and dragged men down to their deaths, for example. The original pagan beliefs would not have had such a negative view of women or treated them so badly as this distorted medieval notion, so ironically the pagan men in this novel seem to treat women even worse than the Church.

The story switches viewpoint between a number of characters. One in particular changes from initially sympathetic to out and out deranged. I did find the ending rather abrupt and disconnected as if a section might have been missing, though I more or less gathered what had occurred off stage. I did wonder why, given the tolerance of the beguines, the leper character had been abandoned. The twist about the identity of the person who attacked the young girl in the woods and what he had done to her previously was extremely nasty, but given his portrayal earlier I wasn't sure this man was physically fit enough to have managed to run round in woods at night. The story is also rather ambiguous, given that several characters seem to see apparently supernatural entities, as to who really did attack her. Partly for these reasons and partly because the unrelenting descriptions of diarrhoea, rot and filth were pretty wearing at times, I would rate this at 3 stars.
… (mais)
kitsune_reader | 31 outras críticas | Nov 23, 2023 |
An incredibly frustrating book. First, the ending is absolutely abysmal. The last page is a complete joke that made me want to scream at the author. Which I guess kind of fits the book, which is a work full of completely meaningless cruelty. The antagonist of the book is a kid who the ending says is a witch. I guess we're supposed to think "wow is she actually a witch or was it all in their minds??" but it doesn't matter because she thinks she's a witch, her only character throughout the book is "hideously cruel human", and she does things that are impossible without supernatural talents. So there's no real dilemma. And the frustrating thing is nobody seems to notice her cruelty or care about her very public witchcraft of casting runes! Other characters are presented as very quick to judge and intolerant. Yet till the end, nobody accuses her of being a witch or even says anything bad about her. When pointed out to the people travelling that every single thing she's ever said has been calculated to hurt the people who've helped her and try to get them to murder each other, not a single one believes Camelot. Even the magician character who hates everyone else never says a bad word about her. This kid who loves killing small animals and hearing them scream and constantly does cruel things and stuff completely unacceptable to medieval society is considered a saint by the group. As the book went on the telegraphing of her as evil became more and more obvious so the last third was frustrating but still nobody notices. Her final explanation for why she did it? Because she could. She murdered people who were the only reason she was alive because she could. It sounds like a shit horror film premise, which isn't what this was advertised as, and the book doesn't pull that off either. At the end, a bunch of villagers finally think she's a witch and go to kill her but we don't see it happen and she suddenly appears later on (presumably) coming to kill Camelot! So she somehow managed to escape being killed by like 10 villagers and then presumably killed the remaining members of the company too. And that's the end. The book just ends there. Like I say, typical horror movie stuff.

It wouldn't be so bad if anything much happened in the rest of the book. They spend the whole book just walking from place to place and then at the end things just fizzle out with a ridiculous climax. Camelot suddenly reveals something that you could only guess through one very explicit line from a minor character earlier. And then she goes home and although she ran away cause she was being treated badly she's welcomed with open arms and lives a good life. Until, of course, fucking horror movie killer turns up on her door. The ending deprives the rest of the book of any meaning it had. We had minor character development, but none of the characters were good enough to cause serious emotions. They just exist and die without having an impact on anything anywhere. The whole walk was pointless - although they may have escaped the pestilence, they just got killed anyway in about the same time scale. They never really know where they're going either, and there's no good reason several of them stay together.

The book really starts to fall apart when the magician guy says out loud that the wolf noise that's been following them is actually a human wolf. Like, not a real wolf at all. There's some attempt to suggest that the wolf is a werewolf but it doesn't really work. Everyone just assumes that this dude employed by a bishop to recover some stolen treasures is following them for months and making wolf noises. He's referred to as "the bishop's wolf" for the rest of the book. They appear to have no understanding of the difference between a metaphorical wolf and a real one. If he's a werewolf, what's he doing being hired by a bishop and how come he also apparently has dogs with him? Even after the magician that the bishop's wolf is supposed to be chasing dies and they leave his stolen stuff behind, all the remaining people except Camelot *still* believe he's chasing them! It makes no sense at all.

The magician has kept up public cruelty throughout the book. For some reason he's incredibly hateful to everyone (except the witch, as stated earlier, who's the one character he SHOULD be most hateful of - she's a woman, and he hates women, for a start). The only reason they're with him is to use his wagon. But when he's gone, it all gets replaced with the very clear to everyone but the characters malice of the witch, which is much more horrible because everyone refuses to acknowledge it. It makes the book very unpleasant. Afterwards another character kills himself but for no real good reason. There's absolutely 0 reason for him to do so. I cannot work out why. He believes another character murdered the magician guy partially for his benefit (because the magician was cruel to him) which makes him... kill himself?? Maybe it's because he's depressed - which is something noticeable - but that's not something that happens. It just feels again like an author's cruelty. She needs to get these people dead through any method. She deliberately avoids having any of the main characters contract the plague. Yet she then kills them off just as arbitrarily except she ostensibly has good reasons. Maybe she's making some profound point but it's executed really badly and I'd rather she did it in less than 576 pages if she wanted to. I don't like depressing books but I can deal if it's illustrating something real that's depressing and bad. Yet here everything that happens is pointless. The antagonist (of a sorts) has no motivation at all. People die when they could easily avoid it by not being idiots. Ultimately it's not illustrating any point except that the author is cruel.

The witch's one bad attempt at justifying stuff is by claiming that everyone she's killing lied. And that she never lied, or else she'd lose her magic powers. This is absolute bullshit. She constantly lies by omission, which is the most that can be held against several of the other characters - for example Pleasance is Jewish but she never claims otherwise. I have no idea what Cygnus is supposed to have lied about - his wing being real? Hardly a "dark secret". There's this sort of attempted message of "lying is bad" but it's wrong because a bunch of the characters only get killed after revealing their secrets and if they'd continued lying things would have stayed good for them. For example, the magician was killed by someone partly because he revealed he'd previously been a priest. If he'd never have said that he'd be alive. It's also another "lie by omission". The advertised "company of liars" feels like nothing of the sort. It's very forced and just doesn't work.

Like I keep thinking about this witch character. I'm incredibly suspicious of the character of the evil witch in general. The typical way to do it would be to make a character the victim of medieval superstitions and misogyny. But here we have a genuinely evil witch. And nothing happens to her until the end. Is this supposed to be a subversion? It just feels gross. Like she gets Pleasance killed deliberately - a character who's actually the sort of person who would get killed in the witch hunts, being very talented in healing and herbs and midwifery. Yet she deliberately makes her reveal she's Jewish in front of anti-semites. This woman had taken care of her for weeks before for no pay. She does it just because she can, as she says.

I know I'm overreacting, but I hate that there's no logic to this book. Fiction can afford to have logic. But here it's replaced by incoherence. People die, not because the universe is cruel, but because of the cruelty of one person. And why does she do stuff? For no reason at all! Camelot even asks her if it's some sort pagan thing and she simply ignores it. The opening of the book is that Camelot gives her some food after her master beats her. And the way she repays her is by following her for months to murder people. Her master who treated her cruelly gets no come-uppance. Only the people who looked after her get hurt. In an environment where people are suspicious of witches and she looks very unusual (described as fae like), she gets no suspicion cast on her until the end. And multiple people find her appearance makes her seem more innocent, even though part of the story is medieval cruelty against people who are different! (For example Camelot has a big scar which is the reason she's a wanderer) Why is it that this medieval cruelty and suspicion avoids the one character who's deserving of it, even though she makes herself a target by doing witchcraft through runes?

The book is filled with sort of a generic medieval cruelty, too. I don't know how accurate this is. You know, sort of "everything is dirty, all the food's the lowest quality, everything's bad" sort of thing. But it still feels silly cause you don't see anyone starving or anything - the main characters are constantly able to catch food even when food is low everywhere else. You don't see anyone starving on the rare visits to towns and villages. Again, it's just this weirdly illogical behaviour. It flips between a "gritty" grim medieval setting and one where everybody's tolerant and there's enough food and shelter whenever the plot demands one or the other. It's just frustrating. Everything works out in the exact way to make things bad, but nothing else happens.

For like half the book it's pretty average but good enough - readable and at least makes me want to read more. It has its own problems - nothing really happens and the characters just aren't really developed enough for me to be particularly interested in them or really understand them. But it builds up some intrigue so even if nothing is really happening right now you expect it to in future and it works for that. And then the last third just completely ruins it. The first half is just not good enough to make up for the ending at all because it's only good as a build up to things happening. If there was better character writing, if the characters built up real relationships with each other, if there was more description of medieval life, if there were more interactions with other people, if there were more things happening, any of those would have been good. But you go into the ending still feeling like these people are randomly thrown together and don't really have any relationship with each other and so the ending has no emotional impact even if the ridiculousness of it didn't ruin it. It's just really embarrassing. I'm sorry.

There's a sex scene which is clearly pedophilic. How the fuck was this considered appropriate in any way? It doesn't come up again but it's disgusting. The adult in the situation later claims he loves the child "like a father" or whatever it's gross and fucked up. It recalls bigoted stereotypes about gay people too.

Edit: Thinking about it later, I realised how Blood Meridian feels like a good comparison point. I rated that 5, although if I read it again now I might disagree with that, and I think it's an example of similar themes carried much better (a sort of ultimate futility, evil for the sake of it, constant journeying with not much happening). Most important to me is that in CoL, most people who are killed are clearly *good people*. Like better than average. In BM everyone is horrible so it doesn't hurt so bad. In addition, in CoL the people killed have been treating the person trying to kill them well - she wouldn't be alive without them. It's a broken trust that I find upsetting because it's handled so blithely and briefly rather than being treated as incredibly evil (the evil sort of only matters in the last 1/10th of the book...). In BM, everyone sort of "lives by the sword, dies by the sword" - there's no trust to begin with, so it feels ok. In CoL, there's constant death and destruction via the plague but none of it affects any of the main characters in any way - it's just a weird backdrop. When death happens, it comes a completely different route that makes the setting near irrelevant. In BM, the desert is nearly a character in itself - the death and destruction always involves the characters and the emotions and action are tied up with them so we always get a clear look and it doesn't feel off-hand. BM invests little moments with big meaning - even travelling involves important conversations. There are quite a few big events too. It's shorter so the travelling doesn't mean so much. In CoL, it's pretty much all travelling, broken up by a few stops where the events are pretty much just things that make them start moving again. This actually works alright but over the length of the book it palls a bit because you keep expecting something to happen. And when it does... it's silly. The characters' dialogue, outside of when they reveal their history, is mostly variations on a single theme, so it can't carry the book. In BM, the Judge's motivations are never properly revealed but you get ideas of them - he feels like a devil figure, focusing on temptation into evil and controlling everything. He seems to target everyone he comes across. In CoL, the witch has no meaningful motivation and her choices of targets are specifically the people helping her, nobody else.

I guess I could continue going on. I still feel a little bad for 1 starring this but that ending! It just completely ruined what I enjoyed from the rest of the book. Yes, endings can really be that bad.
… (mais)
1 vote
tombomp | 114 outras críticas | Oct 31, 2023 |
I normally don’t enjoy books written in 1st person but this one is well done.
glowlove | 114 outras críticas | Oct 23, 2023 |



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