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A Gathering of Ghosts

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  170 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Pagans tackle the Knights of St John with terrible consequences in the new medieval thriller by Queen of the Dark Ages, Karen Maitland. Set on the wilds of Dartmoor, this is a ghostly tale for fans of The Essex Serpent or C. J. Sansom's Shardlake series.

'A dark read... fear and hysteria are portrayed with claustrophobic skill' The Times on THE PLAGUE CHARMER

The year is 131
Paperback, 531 pages
Published June 14th 2018 by Headline Review
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3.90  · 
Rating details
 ·  170 ratings  ·  48 reviews

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Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Karen Maitland has carried out meticulous and indepth research for this piece of medieval historical fiction set in 1316 in Dertemora, or Dartmoor. The dark, visceral and claustrophobic action takes place amidst the background of the ravaging great famine, widespread starvation and King Edward II's contentious decree that allows tinners to dig on anyone's land with impunity to fuel his war efforts. Prioress Johanne, a woman with secrets, heads St Mary's Hospitaller's Priory, built around the anc ...more
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I started reading the latest novel by Karen Maitland, I knew I wouldn't be disappointed. Now, I can honestly admit that A Gathering of Ghosts is a terrific read, which deserves all praise it has received from critics and reviewers. Brilliant medieval mystery, set at the Priory of St Mary in Dartmoor in 1316, where the old beliefs meet still relatively new religion. Maitland masterfully builds the intrigue around a sacred well under the Priory chapel, and as always in her books, the atmosphe ...more
Every time I read a new Karen Maitland book I have this fear that the spell is going to be broken – well not this time. For me, Karen is the master of the medieval thriller with a twist of supernatural menace. England in the 14th century sits on the edge between religious belief and pagan superstition, nowhere is this more prevalent than on wild expanses of Dartmoor, or previously known as Dertemora (Moor in the Dart valley). A Gathering of Ghosts is a brilliant book full of atmospher
Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have been a fan of Karen Maitland since her first novel and enjoyed this, her latest, very much indeed. It is 1316 and the Hospitaller’s Priory of St Mary, sits, isolated on Dartmoor. Prioress Johanne rules her domain with efficiency, but her authority is challenged with the arrival of Knight Brother Nicholas, who arrives one wet and windy night, with the news that the Lord Prior of England has put him in charge.

The Priory is built over an old well, which those locals, who worship the ‘Old Way
Stephen Robert Collins
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Set in 1316 this set around tin miners in Dartmoor with greed & slave labour, witchcraft, the Knights Templar 's shadow & religion.
Egurdouce a sauce never to forget deep fried lard for all meats then fried onions in more lard, fried currants yes You guessed it in more lard, red Wine,vinegar, sugar, pepper,cinnamon,salt, thickened with yes Its lard & eggs then pour it over rotten meat if the fat doesn't kill you the vegetarian nightmare will done it lard but Remember that that's full
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
A Gathering of Ghosts is set against the backdrop of a terrible famine which caused widespread poverty, desperation and displacement of thousands of ordinary people as they were forced to travel across Europe in search of food or better conditions elsewhere.
The well or spring sited at the Priory is central to the story representing the battle between Pagan and religious beliefs at the time. The characters of the story are bogged down in their beliefs, but for me the central character is Dertemor
I read my first Karen Maitland book – The Vanishing Witch – in 2016 and immediately upon finishing it added all her other medieval thrillers to my wishlist on Goodreads. I actually have a copy of The Plague Charmer sitting on my bookshelf unread (which is a crime in itself). My abiding impression of The Vanishing Witch was of the author’s skill in creating an intense atmosphere and sense of the supernatural, all combined with an intriguing mystery. I’m pleased to say this is equally evident in A ...more
Unable to rate this as highly as other reviewers. When I initially read the synopsis it ticked so many of my reading "likes" that I'm left feeling a tad deflated. I did enjoy the bleak and claustrophobic atmosphere, the isolation, the setting of Dartmoor. I also enjoyed the rituals of the "Old Ways" when paganism ruled across the land.

However, this was a very slow read, the "build up" was in simmer mode until very much the end of the novel. Found it difficult to empathise with the main characte
Sep 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Karen Maitland proved again that she can create wonderful creepy historic fiction. I like her dark and atmospheric stories. “The Gathering of Ghosts” is about a clash of the old pagan and the Christian believes. The story is character driven. We see the story through the eyes of several characters. Actually, there is not much activity going on in the story. It is more about the situation, and the strong rules religions demand.

The book is settled during the Great Famine in England between 1315 a
Apr 17, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Every so often I go into a book expecting one thing only to be given something entirely different. Such was the case with A Gathering of Ghosts. I went in expecting a historical mystery, but I was given something entirely different. This isn’t always a bad thing – surprises can be enjoyable – but what I was given instead of the historical mystery I expected failed to wow me.

I enjoy a good historical read with an undertone of magic, and at first I thought A Gathering of Ghosts would provide me wi
Angela Smith
I have read a few Karen Maitland novels and I am always interested in books set in the Medieval times are hers are. This for me is one of her most enjoyable books since I read Company of Liars. The story has a rich cast of characters from the holy sisters of the Priory of St Mary to the locals all set in the backdrop of the wilds of Dartmoor. What I also liked about the book is that there is a fairly large bit at the back giving extra information about the time and it's historical context as wel ...more
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Karen Maitland smashes the bar again with another fabulous, bewitching medieval masterpiece.

She populates her latest book with a cast of superbly memorable characters.

A group of holy sisters in an isolated Priory, ruled by the indomitable Prioress Johanne assisted by a group of sisters including the wonderful sister Basilia (I must confess I instantly pictured her as the wonderful actress Patsy Byrne - most famous for her role of Nursie in Blackadder, and wonder if the author had this character
May 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Karen Maitland has added some very knowledgable paragraphs of Historical notes at the back of this book. There is so much information that I didn't once know about.
Mairead Hearne (
My Rating 4.5*

'You’ll need more than a sword to protect you up there. Other side of that priory stands the most accursed hill on the whole moor. You can hear the dead whispering among those rocks. Hungry ghosts, they are. There’s many has heard them talking, and some even followed the voices into the caves up there. Followed them in, Brothers, but never came out….’

In A Gathering of Ghosts, ‘Pagans tackle the Knights of St John with terrible consequences’

This is a dark and gothic novel folks, s
Vikki Patis
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I LOVE Karen Maitland, she is hands down one of my favourite historical fiction authors. I love how well-researched her books are, with the extended explanations at the back. So when I saw that this new one had passed me by, I was aghast! I'm so thrilled to have received a review copy, many thanks to the author, publisher, and Netgalley.

Maitland is one of those extraordinary writers who can transport you to anywhere, at any time. A Gathering of Ghosts is set on Dartmoor, a place I know from livi
Amanda  Gee
Dec 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
An entertaining, well researched piece of historical fiction. The story quickly draws you in and keeps you engaged with fabulous characterisation. The author brings this period of history alive with her richly descriptive style of writing.
Kelly Pells
Sep 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: gothic
The queen of dark historical fiction, Karen Maitland, returns with another story of terror and superstition from medieval times. Once again her story comes alive with the sights and smells of the medieval era, creating an incredibly rich sense of atmosphere.

Maitland introduces her characters with beautifully written prose which paints the medieval world so vividly that you’ll be convinced you’re standing right beside them, feeling the heat of the fire on your face, or the mud squelching beneath
Serene  Morticia
May 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book was okay, I just wasn't feeling it. This is going on my reread list because I'll probably appreciate later.
Jo Barton
Sep 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The year of our lord, 1316 and a great famine sweeps the land. In an isolated refuge in the wilds of Dartmoor, the holy sisters of the Hospitallers’ Priory of St Mary care for the poor, the diseased and those troubled in spirit. Taking the waters at the Holy Well, once known locally as Brydes Well and dedicated to the Goddess Brigid, offers a sliver of mercy and hope of redemption. However, some pilgrims believe more in the old gods and goddesses, pagan deities who controlled thoughts and prayer ...more

Visit the locations in the novel: Visit the locations!

Meet the author on the moors: Karen Maitland on location in Dartmoor

Dark goings on in Dartmoor....

A medieval tale of witches and witchcraft, legends and ghosts on the moors of Dartmoor.

First things first, the immersive reading experience is something else. The book opens with the wet weather having ruined months of harvests and the poor even poorer by now. People are suffering and dying and those in desperate need have nowhere to go for help
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have been a fan of Karen Maitland's books for a while now having read several. I was so pleased when the opportunity arose to read this one.

Set in 14th century Dartmoor, we see the clash between the Church and the old ways. The sisters of the Knights of St John have taken over the pagan well & dedicated it to St Lucia. Pilgrims come from far & wide to take its water & look for healing. On the moor Morwen, her sisters and her Mother abide by the old ways & continue to call for h
Anne Brown
Jan 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Dartmoor, or to give it it’s ancient name, Dertemora is the setting for this blend of historical fact and historical fiction. The year is 1316, slap bang in the middle of the Great Famine which ravaged Europe. Hunger is the backdrop for this novel. People fight for scraps, tales of cannibalism spread fear, birds and beasts lose their fear of man in the face of hunger. The soundtrack of this novel is the howls of wild dog packs echoing across the moor at night.

Faith and belief are equally importa
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Dartmoor 1316. A hospital with a sacred well overseen by nuns from the Sisters to the Knights of St. John. Desperate human souls clinging to a pitiful existence in the face of famine and extreme weather. The moors being ravaged by man seeking tin and profit. There's no ripped Poldark rising up with his scythe to lighten the tone here. This is a world where the church - men and women - oversee the torture and abasement of their fellow men who fall short of expectations - or simply become expedien ...more
Kelly Daniel
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
I've read/listened to Maitland's Company of Liars which I found dark and thrilling. This one, however, is a little bit ham-fisted. I'm not sure of the premise of this book - the plot seemed as undulating and directionless as the travellers that lose their bearings on Dartmoor. Her characters seem to be fallible which you think would create a greater connection between the reader and them - that didn't work here - most of the characters were flawed in deeply unflattering ways and none of them see ...more
Keith Currie
Apr 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Medieval Dartmoor, some years after the suppression of the Templar Order, in the bleakest of winters, famine and ruin blight the landscape. In the Priory of the Knights of St John the resident nuns are under attack, first from the pagan wise women who formerly controlled the healing pool at the centre of the priory, second from the male brothers of their order who wish to deprive the nuns of their relative independence. Violence, magic, shocks and shenanigans abound through the novel’s more than ...more
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was sent a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for a honest review.

Warnings: murder, blood and attempted rape

Karen Maitland is one of my favourite historical fiction authors and she wrote one of my favourite books Company of Liars. She really knows how to set the scene, everything feels so authentic and her notes at the end of her books always have interesting and detailed information about the time period she is writing about. There is always a dark and rich atmosphere, she brings the
Aug 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

This story takes place on the desolate Dartmoor in England in the early 1300s during the Great Famine. A few years after the destruction of the Knights Templar a group of Sisters of the Order of St. John reside at a Priory on the moor, watching over a sacred well that the Christian Order has dedicated to their own St. Lucia. However, the well was originally ruled by a much older goddess and it is the Pagan goddess that many of the pilgrims recognise a
Linda Humberstone
Oct 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Karen Maitland does it again by really capturing the superstitions and ignorance of the people in the very early 14th century. The story becomes very atmospheric as the famine and disease raging across the country emphasises the hardship of trying to stay alive during this time in remote rural settlements. The Knight of St. John who appears in the story , instead of being caring and helpful, needs to be avoided because he is a threat to the sisters of the Priory of St. Mary and the holy well tha ...more
Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Nice! This is the best Maitland has written in a while. I liked her previous three books but none of them were quite as good as the early ones. But A Gathering of Ghosts is definitely up there with my favourite Maitland books (Company of Liars, Falcons of Fire and Ice). Maitland managed especially well with the split perspectives and different narrators. I mentioned it before in my status updates, but this book doesn't really have that boring narrator. You know the one at who's chapters you take ...more
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Book Witches: A Gathering of Ghosts 2 9 Oct 14, 2018 01:42PM  

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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