Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Gallows Curse by Karen Maitland

The Thirteenth century has just begun and King John has fallen out with the Pope, leaving babies to lie unbaptised in their cradles and corpses in unconsecrated ground. Across a fear-ravaged England, people are dying in sin.

And into the Norfolk village of Gastmere comes a new Lord of the Manor – the cruel and bloodthirsty Osborn, not long returned from crusading. Spying treachery at every turn, he is prepared on the slightest pretext to damn anyone to hell and the scaffold. So when Elena, a servant girl, is falsely accused of murdering her child, she is convinced she will be next. But there are others who will defy Osborn’s brutal regime to save a girl who once took part in the secrets and strange rituals of the manor…

During the 13thcentury, because of a dispute between the Vatican and King John, churches, clerics, and religious worship and sacraments were banned. A young, virgin, servant girl named Elena is taken from her laborious servitude to live and work within Gastmere Manor. But she does not know that she has secretly been subjected to a secret ceremony that will cause her soul to absorb the sins of a dead man. Almost immediately, she is plagued by visions of horrendous murders and she believes she is the murderer. In desperation, she turns to the local wise woman, whose uses her for her own selfish devices regarding a terrible curse.

Master Raffaele is the manor’s steward, a castrato haunted by the sins of his own past. He becomes Elena’s sole means of support and friendship when the castle is taken over by traitorous, unscrupulous new overlords. Soon, she finds herself pregnant and accused of a crime she didn’t commit. To save her life, Raffaele hides her in a filthy brothel run by a dwarf madame with an agenda of her own. And this is just the start. The story unfolds with passion, tension, conflict, and mayhem, hooking the reader from start to finish.

I’m always thrilled when I stumble upon a great book written by a fabulous author previously unknown to me. Karen Maitland and her novel The Gallows Curseis definitely my newest, exciting discovery. In her latest medieval, gothic style novel, there is plenty happening, and it’s all gripping. For those who like their stories dark and on the sinister side, this will definitely satisfy. Superstition, murder, mystery, treachery, cruelty, and shocking secrets all reveal themselves with each turn of the page. For a tale that is fierce, audacious, and radiantly told, this is one novel where I wanted to savour every word to its shocking end. I loved every word!

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