Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Plague Charmer” as Want to Read:
The Plague Charmer
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Plague Charmer

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  775 ratings  ·  107 reviews
The Plague Charmer, by Karen Maitland, Queen of the Dark Ages and bestselling author of Company of Liars, will chill and delight fans of C.J. Sansom and Kate Mosse's Citadel in equal measure. 'A compelling blend of historical grit and supernatural twists' - Daily Mail

Riddle me this: I have a price, but it cannot be paid in gold or silver.

1361. Porlock Weir, Exmoor.
Published October 14th 2016 by Headline Review
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Plague Charmer, please sign up.
Recent Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Year of Wonders by Geraldine BrooksDoomsday Book by Connie WillisWorld Without End by Ken FollettForever Amber by Kathleen WinsorThe Plague by Albert Camus
Bubonic Plague
76 books — 35 voters
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García MárquezLife of Pi by Yann MartelThe House of the Spirits by Isabel AllendeKafka on the Shore by Haruki MurakamiThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Magical Realism
313 books — 568 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  775 ratings  ·  107 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Plague Charmer
Amalia Gavea
''Owls know when death is coming.''

Yes, beautiful sentence. It hooked my attention from the start. However, it is said that first impressions are usually deceiving, and in the case of ''The Plague Charmer'' I was deceived and disappointed.

It is hard to write a review about a book that made you feel nothing. All the premises were there, after all. A mystery set in England during the era of the Great Pestilence, a strong heroine, a witch, a clever dwarf (Tyrion seems to have inspired one or two
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read all of Karen Maitland’s novels and enjoyed them – although none quite as much as her debut, “Company of Liars.” That said, this is an excellent return to an England when plague swept the land. Most of the story takes place in Porlock Weir, an isolated coastal village, and the nearby manor house – Porlock Manor, with an absentee lord, Sir Nigel Loring.

This is a long and involved novel, with several storylines. One involves Porlock Manor and Sir Nigel’s newly married niece, Christina,
Oct 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars
What makes a happy man sad, and a sad man happy? Why, time, of course, for all things pass. Just as the time of happiness passes, so does the time of sadness.

1361 the Great Pestilence returned after a 13 year reprieve. A different strain from the original appears,to which young healthy males were particularly prone, leaving communities of women and the elderly to fend without their menfolk.

Karen Maitland, the undisputed Queen, the Boss, the Bee's Knees of medieval fiction brings us
Evelina | AvalinahsBooks
5 Reasons to read The Plague Charmer! You can also read the full post here on my blog.

Reason #1: The Atmosphere

Although it's hard to place yourself into the world of the story at first, simply because it's so dark, but still it pulls you in and overwhelms you. At times, it seemed I breathed the smell of the wet seaweed, felt the spray of the waves, sensed the cold gusts of wind. It's so incredibly atmospheric! I believe I have yet to read a novel about the middle ages that has pulled me in
Jul 13, 2016 rated it it was ok
But we have little use for truth here. Truth is only one story among many.

Many moons ago I read Company of Liars by same author, and really liked it. So I may have gone in with high expectations. And to be fair the story had all the right elements: magical realism, religious fanatics, dwarfs and witches, yet I never felt totally drawn in. It may have been a case of too many characters and too many stories running simultaneously. The ending definitely picked up in pace, and I enjoyed the last
Nov 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not quite Company of Liars level but still a good tale all the same.
Some of the characters felt a bit more one dimensional than in Maitlands other books but Will the Dwarf was a great character, sort of similar to Tyrion in Game of Thrones, generally shunned but still with a good heart .
The setup was done quite well and I enjoyed the little cheeky take on the creation of folklore through story telling built in to the end.
Jul 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, netgalley
"What I have to offer you cannot be bought with coins. I have a price, but it is not to be paid in gold or silver." She swept her sea-cold gaze around the circle of villagers huddled in the firelight. "I will save this village if just one among you has the courage to give me what I ask."

A brilliantly wrought fantasy--blissfully free of battle scenes--filled with the horrors of "The Great Pestilence," diviners, superstition, myth, charms, holy relics, and a banished court jester.

Will was not
Jul 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The players appearing in this medieval theatre in Portlock Weir are simple folk and have absolutely no concept of what horrors the script of The Plague Charmer has in store for them.

As the Great Pestilence returns for the second time to this costal village it holds its ailing residents hostage and won’t release them from its grip. That is until they pay the price that has been asked by a mysterious stranger rescued from the churning tide, although they began to regret their good deed almost
I found "The Plague Charmer" by Karen Maitland a bit hard to get into but once I did then I found it to be a fascinating look at the Middle Ages, Black Death, and the superstitions small villages possibly had at that time.
It was an amazing historical read with quite a few separate story lines that eventually match up for a fantastic ending. The medieval era is brought to life so well and the characters are very well developed so much so that I could vividly imagine them.
Highly recommended for
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historic-novel
This was the first book I read by Karen Maitland. It was recommended by a GR-list for books about the pest, that I looked up after reading and really liking Doomsday Book. I liked this one quite a bit as well, though I found the story contained a bit too many (mystical) elements. We experience the historical events through the eyes of several POVs who make a clear picture of the overall events. Every new chapter was introduced with a short medieval statement that was clearly related to the ...more
Shaz Goodwin
Oct 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The Plague Charmer may be a ‘dark’ read however Karen Maitland has created colourful and interesting characters.

There are several narrations – from Weir folk Sara and Matilda we have life from the perspective of fisherfolk who need the land to provide for them to live. I loved the contradiction of how a village can pull itself apart but also work in collaboration; in Porlock Manor I was drawn in by the astute Lady Pavia, intriguing Christina, underhanded
Elspeth G. Perkin
Has its own certain charm waiting for the right reader

The Plague Charmer is one dark atmospheric story that bubbles and churns with elements of: chilling history, folklore, damaged characters and enduring medical mysteries that all become nearly impossible to look away from or difficult not to gather some bauble of trivia to tuck away long after turning the final page. These types of tales that not only amuse but strangely enlighten the reader about poignant eras of the past are ones I always
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Southern England, 1361. The plague is back and life in the small Somerset fishing village will never be the same again. This is a historical fantasy, very dark in parts. The history is well researched and as right as it ever can be. The fantasy, in many ways could be explained, but not quite all. Superstition is rife and ignorance abounds. A strange woman, sea witch, arrives and allegedly brings the plague because there is something she wants from the village. A dwarf (not natural, but ...more
Janette Fleming
Jun 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
'Something was approaching, something evil, I could feel it. As if in some distant land the devil had just unfurled his wings and was even now flying over the sea towards us, his shadow reaching out before him to cover the land.'

With Karen Maitland you know what you are going to get, evocative writing which brings the medieval world to life, wonderful, empathetic characters all wrapped up in a bewitching tale.

It is hard to believe the brutality of life, the hardships and poverty endured by
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is very dark in its story line it illustrates the devastation the plague brought to a relatively stable village and the way various characters behaved during this time. It also explores apocalyptic cults, belief in witches and the courage of the least in hard times. I won’t say it is a book for those seeking light reading or happy endings but it did hold my attention and was not a disappointment
Mar 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book was given tome by netgalley and the publisher for my open and honest review
maitland brings the black death to live in this novel with people's beliefs shrouded in myth as the black death didn't care for class or wealth. this novel is based in somerset and like how the characters are inter linked in their misery and finding a way out but over shadowed by church and beliefs.
Vikki Patis
Aug 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Serene  Morticia
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
"First, you take a lusty infant - they must be strong to survive the moulding - and fit with an iron frame over its baby head and face. One of the iron bars with hooks on either end goes in that little toothless mouth to stretch the lips into a permanent wide grin. Dwarves are supposed to look cheerful, and it spares us the effort of having to fix our mouths into a grin in company. It wouldn't do for that smile to slip, now, would it?

"The other iron bars of the bridle flatten the baby's button
May 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
WOW KM is good! Just the right mix of witchery, folklore and mud! I loved it! I couldn't put the book down. I couldn't stop turning the pages. It was mucky, dirty and raw. The story gripped: there was a murder (several all told) but that didn't get you - the plague was front and centre; there was a child - whose?; two lost boys; a fire; a quest; a flood; a storm. A village ripped to shreds, dripping in fear. Brilliant just brilliant. There was no let up in the writing. The human and the ...more
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
A fun, easy read. Lots of interesting historical detail that really gave a sense of time & place to the novel. I liked the range of characters & that the short chapters were often written from particular characters viewpoints.
Would have liked to give three & a half stars rather than four as it wasn’t a novel that I’d read again, but if you’re simply after a good read, this is worth a look.
Karen Maitland is a great storyteller.

The Plague Charmer is a fascinating medieval tale full of atmosphere and superstition. It’s a long but an unputdownable book, bringing the medieval world to life in all its brutality and hardship. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The book is set in Porlock Weir in 1361 where a village is isolated by the plague when the Black Death spreads once more across England. Following an eclipse of the sun, as a storm rages along the coast, a ship is blown ashore bringing a
Jo Barton
Oct 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set in 1361, and with a clever blend of mysticism, superstition and folklore, The Plague Charmer looks at the catastrophic effects of a great pestilence which is sweeping England and as it moves inexorably towards Porlock Weir an impoverished fishing village on the edge of Exmoor, so does the threat of impending doom. The villagers eke out a lowly existence, reliant on land and sea for their meagre survival, and so when an enigmatic stranger emerges from the sea and offers them a deadly bargain ...more
Angela Smith
This is the third Karen Maitland book that I have read to date and so far I think it is my favourite one. It has an interesting cast of characters that you either love or hate according to their personality. I definitely found it a page turner and that is not always easy with historical fiction. There is a list of the people in the book just in case you need it, but I found I didn't as most of them were memorable in their own way, none more than Will the dwarf, purposely deformed at birth in a ...more
The Irregular Reader
Check out more reviews at my blog!

The year is 1361 and the sun has disappeared. The residents of tiny Porlock Weir can only watch in horror as the sun is swallowed up by a black disc, turning the afternoon sunshine into night. When the sun reappears a few minutes later, they are hardly comforted: this can only be a bad omen. That night, a storm rages along the coast, wrecking a ship upon the rocks outside the village. A sole survivor is pulled from the
Oct 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

The Plague Charmer, I actually grabbed this book because I was intrigued by the cover. Yes, I choose books by their covers.

I would probably not have read it by the blurb. Historical Fiction and Fantasy is not really what I go for in books. So, I am glad I choose it because of it’s cover.

The time I travelled to is 1361 and the start of the book gave a detailed description how dwarfs are created to be sold and serve the more
Oct 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Plague Charmer is the first book that I have read by Karen Maitland and also the first that I have read that is set in the 14th century.
It is set in Porlock Weir, an area of Exmoor and features several people. Will, a ‘manmade dwarf’, Sara, a wife and mother and Matilda, otherwise known as the ‘Holy Hag’ are the main characters. When the village is cursed by Janiveer a woman who was rescued from the sea and the plague decimates the village population all three are affected. They all survive
Nov 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spec-fic
2016: FWFTB: Exmoor, hysteria, dwarf, locked, saint. Yay! As far as I am concerned, Ms Maitland has rediscovered her mojo. This was so much better than the last couple of books that I have read by her. The Daily Mail is quoted on the front cover:"Dark and woven with the supernatural" which is true to an extent but it is so much more than that. It is well-plotted, characterful and with a real sense of time and place which I think that Ms Maitland excels at. Interestingly, the publishers decided ...more
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really well researched tale of the 1361 that weaves in a great deal of the human experience and emotion in times of crisis.
Jo-anne Atkinson
Remote Devon village Porlock Weir doesn't have a lot going for it. Many of the menfolk fish and the women keep hearth and family together, down by the beach lives a dwarf in a cave. One evening a great storm occurs and a woman is saved from a wreck. She tells the villagers that she wants something from them and if she doesn't get it the plague will return. Sure enough it does.

This is a complex novel set in the fourteenth century but one which mixes fable, superstition and history. Maitland has
The Book Guzzler
Karen Maitland has a knack of weaving characters stories together with invisible threads in every novel that she writes. This book starts in the small village of Porlock Weir and surrounding areas- and it starts off with the recovery of a body from the sea. Events thereafter change the small village forever. Of course no Karen Maitland book would be complete without a little medieval magic and medicine.... I honestly had trouble putting this book down. You know it's a fantastic read if you're ...more
« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Coffin Path
  • The Corset
  • The Familiars
  • A House of Ghosts
  • The Story Keeper
  • The King's Witch (Frances Gorges Trilogy, #1)
  • The Conviction of Cora Burns
  • The King’s Evil
  • Wakenhyrst
  • Begging to Die (Katie Maguire, #10)
  • The Burning Chambers
  • The Wicked Cometh
  • Sealskin
  • Wychwood (Wychwood, #1)
  • Tombland (Matthew Shardlake, #7)
  • Violet
  • Closer to the Ground: An Outdoor Family's Year on the Water, in the Woods and at the Table
  • Hidden Company
See similar books…

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
“They say despair is a terrible thing, but hope is worse: it keeps you shackled for ever, like a dog in a wheel, always running, but never able to go anywhere, save round and round.” 1 likes
More quotes…