A Gathering of Ghosts by Karen Maitland
|A Gathering of Ghosts by Karen Maitland|
|Reviewer: Mary Waterfall|
|Summary: Maitland shines another exquisite, startling and original medieval spotlight onto the psychological motivations of fear. Rich in historical detail, dark and oppressive this thriller slips into the downright sinister a times. Day to day interaction and human contact are moments of respite, a time to catch your breath, which results in a captivating and exciting novel. Beautiful writing and an absolute pleasure to read.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 544||Date: September 2018|
|Publisher: Headline Review|
|External links: Author's website|
Witchcraft, the supernatural and the will to survive at all costs collide in a story that never shies away from the darker side of human nature. The land is unhappy, the old spirits want revenge and famine is kindling a resurgence of the old faith. As fear rises, it is increasingly difficult for Prioress Johanne to ignore that something rotten has taken root. The sacred well is tainted, its healing waters run red with blood and strangers are blowing in on a wind of change.
Medieval Britain, a time of great upheaval, new ideas and the old ways thrust aside. People who refuse to change crushed under the will of the newly powerful. Their land taken and their beliefs turned into heresy. The indigenous people of Dartmoor, cast out from their sacred well have tangled their faith with the more powerful religion in order to survive.
Kendra and her daughters the old guardians of the spirit world, no longer receive offerings from the pilgrims who seek the healing waters from the well. The ancient source of healing has been re- consecrated to the Sisters of the Order of St John who have enclosed the sacred well within their chapel, barred and gated within the priory.
Over time, an uneasy peace has grown between the Sisters and the villagers who publicly bend their knee to the priory but in secret still visit Kendra on the moor. After years of relative peace, the arrival of strangers and a blind child shatters the fragile truce between the Sisters and the Village. The Sister now face their own submission under male leaders of the Order of St John.
The story unfolds from multiple perspectives. Sorrel called since childhood by a voice only she can hear to this place, this time. Prioress Johanne has to battle her own demons whilst fighting to keep the priory flourishing despite pressure from failing crops and uncanny happenings. Nicholas, a knight of the Order of St John sent by his commander to uncover weakness, false faith and theft, is horrified to discover that the sisters, far from welcoming his protection, are secretive and uncooperative. Each voice is compelling and convincing, the writing rich and immersive, allowing the reader to identify with the contradictory motivations that drive each character.
The landscape is a looming presence and dominates each scene. Place descriptions are vivid, the village, priory and moors, assigned emotive descriptions which take on the nuances of the people who move through them with increasing desperation. The ever-changing weather, described with stunning intensity, adds an extra layer of menace to a plot already mired in mystery.
Maitland excels at creating twists and turns, presenting conflicting viewpoints and unexpected outcomes. A Gathering of Ghosts has a slightly slower pace than other novels by the author, but this suits the tale and actually at times increases the suspense.
Check out any of Karen Maitland’s previous works for more of her stunning explorations into medieval superstition and the uncanny, The Vanishing Witch in particular is in a similar vein. The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola examines in detail similar themes and the struggle for cultural power. A series with an extensive back catalogue the most recent of which The Habit of Murder: The Twenty Third Chronicle of Matthew Bartholomew by Susanna Gregory should satisfy readers looking for other authentic thrillers set within a convincing medieval period.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Gathering of Ghosts by Karen Maitland at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy A Gathering of Ghosts by Karen Maitland at Amazon.com.
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