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Company of Liars

3.79  ·  Rating Details  ·  8,929 Ratings  ·  1,089 Reviews
The year is 1348. The Black Plague grips the country. In a world ruled by faith and fear, nine desperate strangers, brought together by chance, attempt to outrun the certain death that is running inexorably toward them.
Each member of this motley company has a story to tell. From Camelot, the relic-seller who will become the group's leader, to Cygnus, the one-armed storyte
Audio CD, Unabridged
Published September 30th 2008 by Books on Tape (first published January 1st 2008)
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Graeme M As far as I know it's a stand alone novel. Company of Liars takes place in 1348, and Owl Killers is set in 1321.
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Enya-Marie I'm not sure what you mean by this - are you saying fiction as in they're historically inaccurate or as in they were fiction within the book itself…moreI'm not sure what you mean by this - are you saying fiction as in they're historically inaccurate or as in they were fiction within the book itself (i.e. a lie)?(less)
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Community Reviews

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I imagine that it must be incredibly difficult to write an ending to a novel. Especially one that has been building a sense of mystery, suspense, and dread for a couple hundred pages. Up until the last handful of pages, Company of Liars is intriguing and illuminating. I have a soft spot for historical fiction, and an interest in medieval Europe, so I'm already naturally inclined toward this book. The author very deftly avoids the pitfall of writing a sort of Ye Olde Renaissance Faire kind of boo ...more
Nov 19, 2009 Hilary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read multiple novels about the Plague (Year of Wonders, Doomsday Book, probably others I can't think of right now). This was a completely different experience. The Plague is, in some ways, huge, and in other ways a minor character. A nod to the Canterbury Tales, this is the story of a motley group of travelers thrown together in their desperate attempt to escape the ravages of the pestilence.

I found this to be a total immersion experience. It doesn't wallow in medieval language, but the voc
1.5 stars rounded to 2

“The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them -- words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out. But it's more than that, isn't it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dear
Jun 16, 2016 Annet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, dark
Enjoyed this historical novel! A mystery tale of a band of travelers in The Middle Ages, travelling through England to escape the upcoming pestilence....
Entertaining read! The ending unexpected, at least for me.... Will definitely try more of this author.
As usual... probably more to follow. For those who like historical fiction, recommended!

And for those who don't know this book yet (many have read it here I see):
Midsummer's day 1348... On this day of ill omen, plague makes its entrance. With
Aug 08, 2014 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Okay, let's start with the negative, just to get it out of the way. I had read several reviews on Goodreads complaining about the ending before I even picked up the book, so all through the last chapter I kept thinking Whew! That's not such a bad ending! I can see how it might not please everyone, but I actually kind of like it! That was quite a relief, considering I adored the book most of the way through, and it had already gone down a bit in my estimation by the final chapter. My relief last
Susan Johnson
May 28, 2015 Susan Johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book so absolutely riveting that I spent two nights up late reading it. At first I thought it was just a mesmerizing story about the Plague in 1348 but it was so much more. Nine strangers come together, all with secrets, and as they travel to avoid the Black Death, their stories slowly are told.

I don't want to spoil it for anyone but there were so many twists that I had to keep reading to find out what was coming next. A very entertaining book that was extremely well-written. I hi
I picked up Company of Liars as my fifth book of the readathon, last night, and read half of it in one go. Unfortunately, I couldn't stay up, but I can definitely say this for it: it could distract me from the pain of gallstones when high doses of anti-spasmodics and opiates could not. I think how much it entertains you will depend on how much you buy into the characters: I was prepared to fall for most of them, and to pity those I didn't adore, so I got swept up in their story. It's a relativel ...more
Amy Bruno
Dec 22, 2008 Amy Bruno rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There's not a better way to end the year of great reads in 2008 than to end it with Karen Maitland's first book, Company of Liars. This book has everything: love, death, friendship, witchcraft,'s a little historical fiction mixed with a little fantasy rolled in to one yummy nugget of a novel.

The plot was excellent, the storytelling was just amazing and the characters are ones you are not soon to forget. This is one of those that stay with you a while. I find myself missing Camelot
Aug 06, 2015 Cphe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed this far more than I expected. Loved the premise of the novel, the journey of nine very different people who band together to attempt to outrun the pestilence that has overtaken the countryside. The lengths that each will go to guard their secrets from each other. Thought that the characters were well presented and appreciated the mystery surrounding the unknown narrator. There were quite a few twists to the plot and characters that were unexpected and I didn't see coming at all.

Nov 09, 2008 Carrie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
Company of Liars by Karen Maitland is a reinterpretation of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Set in 14th century England, during a time of fear, religious power, and superstition, it is the story of nine travelers trying to escape the Plague. As they travel inland, it becomes apparent that each one carries a secret. One by one, the secrets are exposed, with deadly consequences.

There is Zophiel, the traveling magician whose wagon full of boxes is a constant source of worry. No one knows what is in the
Jul 03, 2015 Amber rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Camelot decides to travel with two musicians, a magician, a painter and his wife, a swan-boy storyteller, and a soothsayer as they travel away from the pestilence a.k.a. "Black Plague" as it ravages and destroys everything in its path. Something evil is following them too. As it begins to kill them off one by one, can they make it to their destination safely even though they are a company of liars? Read on and find out for yourself.

This was a pretty good historical horror mystery novel. I also l
Imagine yourself on a cross-country road trip picking up hitch-hikers at various stops. This adventure would involve danger, suspense, fear, and maybe even growth (emotionally). Adapt this to the 14th century with wanderers on foot attempting to escape the pestilence and you have Karen Maitland’s “Company of Liars”.

Maitland’s novel is a juicy concoction of a medieval historical fiction novel mixed with spiritualism, magic, and mystery dumped into a pot of a fairy tale/fable core served to adult
COMPANY OF LIARS (Hist. Myst-Camelot-England-1348) – VG+
Maitland, Karen – Standalone
Penguin/Michael Joseph, 2008, UK Hardcover – ISBN: 9780718153229

First Sentence: ‘So that’s settled then, we bury her alive in the iron bridle. That’ll keep her tongue still.’

The plague has come to England and nine people have joined together in an attempt to outrun it and find safety. A very disparate group it is: a scarred trader of holy relics, a magician, a musician and his teacher, a storyteller with a deform
Mar 17, 2009 Ann rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have so many wishes. I wish I’d paid less attention to the “stunning reinterpretation of the Canterbury Tales!” part of the book jacket and noticed that all the blurbs were from people who write scary books. If you are like me – for whatever reason, I have read A Distant Mirror yet cannot sit through even the most banal mystery book without crapping my pants – then this is not for you. I wish I had the foresight to realize that even though I was rolling my eyes with every other page, I would g ...more
Mar 26, 2009 Brooke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, 2009
Although I gave it 4 stars, it's closer to a 3.5. Company of Liars has been advertised as a reinterpretation of The Canterbury Tales, but it's been so long since I read Chaucer (and it was only excerpts, if I'm remembering my freshman high school English class correctly) that I didn't have much to compare it to. Standing on its own, Company of Liars is a solid historical mystery. Nine people are traveling together across England to escape the plague, and each is hiding a secret from his companio ...more
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Jul 07, 2008 Susanna - Censored by GoodReads rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Susanna - Censored by GoodReads by: Bettie
I kept envisioning Narigorm as one of the kids from Children of the Corn.
Emma Flanagan
Science, Philosophy, Religion, Superstition. All are attempts by humans to understand our world, As a species we fear the unknown, that which we cannot see or understand. We turn to science, philosophy, religion or superstition to provide the answer and where one fails, we will turn to another to fill the void. At different points in history each has held greater sway, though undoubtedly religion and superstition ruled supreme for the greatest period. This book is set during such a period, the M ...more
Jul 28, 2015 Ariel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
I have a lot of love for historical fiction novels. I went bonkers over Ken Follett's multiple character arcs in Pillars of the Earth and I think I'm diving back into the same realm of reader's reverence having finished Maitland's Company.

I liked that the history woven throughout the work wasn't yoked by the weight of þe Auld England (for those in the hornless-Ye awareness group). Don't get me wrong, I have a linguistic addiction and cultural philology/morphology can get me going as much as the
Jamie Collins
I very much enjoyed the first half of this, when I thought it was straight historical fiction, if perhaps a bit sensationalist and with some creepy overtones. About halfway through I realized it was actually a supernatural horror novel, which is less my cup of tea (despite my growing collection of Phil Rickman novels).

This is set in England in 1348, that infamous year when the Black Death arrived. Nine travelers band together for safety and companionship while trying to stay ahead of the pestile
Company of Liars
4 Stars

The year is 1348 and the Pestilence has come to England. Among those fleeing the spread of the deadly disease are a company of nine travelers, each possessing a unique gift and each concealing a dark secret, but none is darker than the one that may spell the destruction of them all…

Note: Although the publisher claims this is a reimagining of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Cantebury Tales, there is no resemblance between the two other than a group of travelers sharing their stories. W
Mar 09, 2013 Katrina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The second book I've read by this author in as many months, this was just as enjoyable and satisfying as The Owl Killers. Maitland is brilliant at bringing the sights, sounds and smells of the 14th century to life, and the cast of characters was fantastic; I imagine it must be very hard to make each member of such a large group distinctive, but every one of the band of travellers was almost immediately memorable. My only problem with the lengthy narrative was that some parts were too similar to ...more
This story of 9 travelers is filled with suspense and dread. It is also an exploration of the nature of good and evil, secrets and truth, hope and lies, hypocracy, scapegoating, trust and friendship, and religion and faith, all set against the backdrop of the plague sweeping its way through England in the 14th century. It ably demonstrates how the plague broke down the midieval social order, paving the way for the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. It is as much a psychological drama as a myster ...more
Karolina Kat
Jun 07, 2016 Karolina Kat rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
A rather mediocre novel that doesn't live up to its premise. Most of the plot twists, and 'lies' are rather obvious to the reader, which does not serve well the story. Company of Liars lack a good setting and the characters skim through the surrounding world without much explanation nor descripion (the Glossary at the end does not count, really). This in turn makes Plague in "the story about Plague" rather invisible and less threatening than the (not so) mysterious girl with her runes. Although ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
This is sort of an ersatz Chaucer's Tale meets The Decameron meets Gulliver's Travels.

The foreshadowing and something about the dialogue were very clunky but the story was compelling and I was never bored or annoyed while reading. So it gets over the hump of a two-star rating with that.

I found the "tales within a tale" mostly too fantastical and felt they stopped the flow of the story without really doing much to put me into the characters' heads or advance the plot/themes, although I did finall
Jul 12, 2010 C.W. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set in 14th century England during the time of the Pestilence, this is a chilling, riveting tale of nine travelers who come together seemingly by accident and forge an uneasy alliance in order to outwit the black death. As narrated by the one-eyed relic hawker, Camelot, we journey with them through a collapsing world of flood, fear, and famine, where townships are abandoned overnight to the plague and the road harbors both criminals and fugitives. As the travelers begin to sense an unseen presen ...more
Mar 21, 2014 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is marketed as being a sort of retelling of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and that is true in the sense that it is set in the same century (14th) and features a group of travellers who each have a story to tell. However, instead of being on a pilgrimage to Canterbury, these travellers are fleeing the onset of the plague in England and instead of being stories told more for entertainment purposes, these stories are very real and contain secrets about the individual which, when revealed, often h ...more
Liza Perrat
Jun 14, 2012 Liza Perrat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It’s a long time since I’ve picked up a novel that gripped me so much I just had to finish it as quickly as possible. But this is what happened when I discovered, quite by accident, or good fortune, Karen Maitland’s Company of Liars.
It is 1348 and the Black Plague has disembarked on the English shores. The narrator, Camelot – itinerant peddler of bogus holy relics – is making his way north and inland to try and outrun the plague. Along the way, believing in safety in numbers, Camelot is joined b
Just to throw a few disclaimers out there, I'll lay out a few factors which have probably shaped my opinion of this book.

On the face of it, a book set in the mid-14th century should appeal to me and the whole macabre spectre of the plague was an additional factor.
As it turned out, this novel is almost anathema to the usual kind of historical fiction I read that often contains battles, bloodshed, chronicled historical events like heads of state etc. This book has none of that. Yes, it is set arou
I really enjoyed this novel of plague-era England. In a way, the premise kind of reminded me of McCarthy's The Road in that here we have characters who are struggling to endure and move forward with hope, even though it seems like there really shouldn't be any hope left.

Maitland deftly arranges a set of characters who are forced to travel together. This motley assortment of people adds a lot of excitement and intrigue to the overall puzzle of the book. I never felt like she was pandering to the
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Read Runners: HF June 2016 - Company of Liars 80 20 Jun 13, 2016 07:08AM  
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  • Veil of Lies (Crispin Guest, #1)
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  • The Observations
  • Martyr (John Shakespeare, #1)
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  • The Rose Demon
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Karen Maitland has recently moved to the wonderful county of Devon and has a doctorate in psycholinguists. She is fascinated by the myth and magic of the Middle Ages, which she draws on for her novels. She experienced the medieval lifestyle for real, when she worked for eighteen months in a rural village in Nigeria, living without electricity, plumbing or sanitation.

Her first medieval thriller wa
More about Karen Maitland...

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“You've heard tales of beauty and the beast. How a fair maid falls in love with a monster and sees the beauty of his soul beneath the hideous visage. But you've never heard the tale of the handsome man falling for the monstrous woman and finding joy in her love, because it doesn't happen, not even in a story-teller's tale.” 48 likes
“Rain slips through your fingers as easily as words blow away in the wind, and yet it has the power to destroy your whole world.” 32 likes
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