Company of Liars
Maitland´s novel is set in the England of the 14th century, a „novel of the plague“as the subtitle says. And the author is clearly following the famous Canterbury Tales in the layout of her plot, if not the „Manuscrit trouve´ a Saragosse“ by Jan Potocki from 1956.
We first meet the old camelot, who tells the whole story in the first person. As he travels from the south of England to the north, to escape the spreading plague, one companion after the other joins him on this troublesome journey in everlasting rain. The terrible weather has destroyed the harvest and people all around them live a miserable life.
Camelot makes a likewise miserable living by selling fake relics to the faithful. The first travellers to join him are two musicians, master and apprentice. Then they make the acquaintance of Zophiel and his horse drawn wagon. The next companions are a young couple, the wife pregnant. Then Cygnus, a young man with a swan´s wing instead of his second arm, joins the group, the last is Narigorm, a 10-12-year-old girl, who can read runes and turns out to be an evil witch, who endangers the whole company. One after the other dies a violent death. It takes camelot and the patient reader a long time to find out, what it is all about: Every one of the group is hiding a dark secret.
I enjoyed reading this compassionate story almost to the end, but then it became a bit too mysterious and superstition took main stage.