Set in London, 1350, two years after the start of the bubonic plague in that city.
Not for the squeamish. The opening scene is pretty gruesome and had me muttering about superstition and stupidity.
In a wonderfully medieval tone, a first person account begins, told by a Lord of the manor, far too young. With several of the local authorities dead of plague, responsibility is brought to his door when a dead girl is found in the woods.
As a younger son who is only Lord because his older brothers fell victim to the plague, Oswald is unprepared for his role but rises to the challenge with admirable self-discipline and intelligence. Plots and intrigue make it necessary for him to learn the ways of land-grabbing Lords fast, and a superstitious priest complicates his every move.
I loved the writing in this. Despite the stress and some gory scenes, it's wonderfully medieval and at times even poetic in well written prose. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys Historical Fiction or Fantasy.
London, 1665. A serial killer stalks his prey, scalpel in his hand and God's vengeance in his heart. Five years after his restoration to the throne, Charles II leads his citizens by example, enjoying every excess. Londoners have slipped the shackles of puritanism and now flock to the cockpits, brothels and, especially, the theatres, where for the first time women are allowed to perform alongside the men. But not everyone is swept up in the excitement. Some see this liberated age as the new Babylon, and murder victims pile up in the streets, making no distinction in class between a royalist member of parliament and a Cheapside whore. But they have a few things in common: the victims are found with gemstones in their mouths. And they have not just been murdered; they've been . . . sacrificed. Now the plague is returning to the city with full force, attacking indiscriminately . . . and murder has found a new friend.
Chris Humphreys is an inspired historical fiction author. I met him last weekend at a literary conference and he is smart, funny, and charming as the devil. He definitely benefits from his acting background, particularly his ease with performing Shakespeare (we got an excerpt from one of the Henry plays during his key-note address). During one of his panel discussions, he mentioned that as an author, one must choose how the dialog will be written—choose your form of “bygone-ese” as he called it. Humphrey’s ease with the English of Shakespeare and his playwright’s ear for what will sound good gives his fiction a feeling of reality, using just enough older vocabulary and never becoming too 21st century.
There is, of course, theatre involved in the novel—a subject that the author is knowledgeable and comfortable with. But the variety of characters, from highwayman to serial killer to royalty, gives the story a breadth that I appreciated. As a reader, you are not limited to merely the theatre of 1665, you experience many parts of London. In fact London itself could be counted as a character.
I will be working my way, gradually, through all of Chris Humphreys works and will definitely look forward to more. Highly recommended.
My second Tepper read was succulently good! I wanted to savor the book, so I took my time with it. I am sharing my favorite parts of the book here like I do in most reviews. However, this time, I have chosen 6 quotes that sum up how I felt about the book.
Sometimes, it was the way the author described an emotion, such as the horror that a character felt when the Witch took her mask off.
Other times, it was how a character expressed a philosophical thought about gangers simplifying language to such an extreme that they started looking down at poetry and literature. The quote below reminded me of the restrictions being placed on characters in the novel 1984.
If you take out the different words that describe completely different things that are also the same, what are you left with? For instance, I think love when I read the word, red. I don’t think that when I come across scarlet because I associate it with scandal. Then there is crimson, which reminds me of blood.
Then there were times when a character stated the truth in the simplest manner. The line is easy to miss with so much else that is going on. Yet, if you stop and think about it, there is depth in those words. Two particular examples that made me shudder are mentioned below:
As were the times when a character who is still young and inexperienced said something profound. I went back and read this quote multiple times because it resonated with me. If you find it touching your heart too, you might want to check out my review of The Handmaid’s Tale.
Finally, there were some parts that sparked something in me. While reading them, I thought I could base my next story on these lines. I find that the books that end up on my favorites’ shelf have that in common. I think that each line in those books could be hiding a story in itself.
I would very much love to read the second book in the series even though it would be lacking one of my favorite characters from this one. Care to join me for a buddy read?