Book Reviews

Book Review: Plague Charmer by Karen Maitland


This book was reviewed via Netgalley


Maitland’s The Plague Charmer is a historical fiction set in 1361 England, during the second wave of the Black Death. Porlock Weir, and its governing seat of Porlock Manor sit along the Exmoor coast. After a fierce storm lashes the coast, a woman is pulled from the sea. At first she is believed dead, but she lives, or lives again.


She’s not the only thing pulled out, either. A young man named Luke drags in an old box found in the tide flats, after the tide goes out quite far. And soon after the storm, a ragged bundle is dredged out that proves to be a pair of children, bound together. It is clear that, while one was likely dead, the other was alive when first tossed in. It is soon clear why. The children bear the buboes than are harbinger to the Great Pestilence.


The woman pulled from the sea, named Janiveer,  claims she can divert the plague, if the villages pay her price. It’s a price none are willing to pay. She departs, and the plague kicks in full gear. Soon, people are desperate to find Janiveer. Families have been shattered, and still the epidemic rages on. Contact between Porlock Weir and Manor has been cut off, and there are things out there almost as bad as the plague. One of these is Brother Praeco and his crazy ass apocalypse cult. As all of these elements begin to converge, will anyone be left alive after collision?


This was the first historical novel I’ve read set during this time frame. Aside from the crazy cult people, which I could have done without, I really enjoyed this story. Janiveer and Caederyn’s thread was fascinating. It was a touch of the old world, of Celtic paganism.


There were several threads in this story. Besides Janiveer, Sara, and Will the dwarf were my favourite threads to read about. Matilda, not so much. She was as crazy as Praeco and his groupies. Maybe more so, given some of her predilections. I was glad when she got her comeuppance. Praeco too.


This story was well-written and quite engaging. Maitland weaves the stories of several different people around one another. Often chapters are devoted to a single character. In a rather daring move, she chose to switch perspective between characters, so some are first person, others third person. It takes a rare talent to handle that and end up with something good, let alone great. This was also my first Maitland book, and now I want to read more. Just got a short on my Kindle, actually 🙂


🎻🎻🎻🎻🎻 Highly recommended

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