The Plague Charmer by Karen Maitland
Published by Headline Review
20th October 2016
Riddle me this: I have a price, but it cannot be paid in gold or silver.
1361. Porlock Weir, Exmoor. Thirteen years after the Great Pestilence, plague strikes England for the second time. Sara, a packhorse man's wife, remembers the horror all too well and fears for safety of her children.
Only a dark-haired stranger offers help, but at a price that no one will pay.
Fear gives way to hysteria in the village and, when the sickness spreads to her family, Sara finds herself locked away by neighbours she has trusted for years. And, as her husband - and then others - begin to die, the cost no longer seems so unthinkable.
The price that I ask, from one willing to pay... A human life.
I haven’t read a Karen Maitland novel since she published Company of Liars back in 2009 and to be honest, I’m not sure why not. When I got sent The Plague Charmer to review during the summer holidays I began it instantly. Set in 1361, the book is situated in Exmoor in a remote village called Porlock Weir. Our central narrator is a dwarf called Will who sees and hears most of what goes on around him, principally due to the fact that people presume he cannot hear or understand them. One day a strange package is washed up on the shore and shortly afterwards a woman is rescued from drowning. She brings with her a message for the villagers, warning of a breakout of the plague that only she can prevent – if they will only pay her price.
The villagers refuse and soon the plague makes the return that was predicted. The villagers panic and soon families are ostracised in a bid to prevent the disease from spreading across Porlock Weir. However it appears that the disease can and will strike anywhere and even those with connections are not safe.
There are loads of characters in Karen Maitland’s books and sometimes it is a little confusing to remember who is who at times; thankfully she always includes a list of them at the start of her novels which is of immense help to the reader. I really enjoyed this trip back to Medieval England and even the length of almost 600 pages seemed to wiz by. I’m already looking forward to her next book and in the meantime I’m off to read her previous books!
Miss Chapter x