“The truth is often a terrible weapon of aggression. It is possible to lie, and even to murder, for the truth.”
- Alfred Adler, psychiatrist.
“We need lies…in order to live.”
- Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, philosopher
This is a tale of the plague but not quite as you know it.
“All England was rotting.”
The book is a first person narration but our narrator is only known only as Camelot.
“Camelot. A medieval peddler.”
It is 1348. Plague has come to England .
“You might have thought that people would panic, but the truth is they didn’t believe it would touch them…they assured themselves that pestilence was a foreign thing. Why, it even had a foreign name – morte bleue. How could any Englishman die of a sickness so plainly marked for foreigners?”
The lies you tell will be the death of you.
“Morrigan…the shapeshifter, the wolf, the swan, the bringer of chaos and death, the destroyer of liars. You only heard the wolf because you lied. You all lied.”
This book tells the tale of a group of misfits:-
- A scarred trader in holy relics.
“…sell a man what he believes in, then you’re giving him the gift of hope. And hope itself is always genuine. It’s only what it’s placed in that can prove to be false.
- A conjuror
“Strange how desperate people are to know the future, even if they know they cannot change it.”
- A musician and his apprentice.
- A one-armed storyteller
“…it is a fearful thing to be different.”
- A young couple on the run
“If you want to conceal yourself, the best place is often in plain view. But then I think you have already discovered that.”
- A midwife
“Tears are natural. Tears are human. Tears confine your curiosity to yourself.”
- And a rune reading girl.
“Was that the beginning? Was that what caused it all, half a pastry offered to a child with eyes of ice?..there was something else that happened on that day, several miles away…Unconnected, you would’ve thought, yet those two events were to become as tightly woven as the warp and weft in a length of silk. Threads drawn from different directions, yet destined to become one.”
Each of them carry something with them. Each of them escaping the plague.
“But then, if the winter firsts did not kill it, what in heaven or earth could?”
Each escaping their own personal shame.
“We leave as much to get away from where we are, as to find something we seek.”
Each with secrets guarded closely. None of them are exactly as they seem.
“They say mirrors cannot lie, but they speak a cruel and spiteful truth.”
But one amongst them conceals the darkest secret of all.
“My lies had brought hope where there was none. I’d believed mine was the greatest of all the arts, the noblest of all the lies, the creation of hope….hope cannot overcome truth. They cannot coexist. Truth destroys hope…the greatest art of all is the destruction of truth.”
A secret which forces each of them to reveal their own secrets and propels them to a destiny.
“It was too late now. Why do we always leave it too late?”
A destiny which is more perilous than any of them could imagine.
“Perhaps it was the living we should be praying for, not the dead.”
There are many themes in this book. Camelot, our narrator, is a firm believer of hope. And while this seems like a good belief to have, not all agree.
“Hope is for the weak…To hope is to put your faith in others and in things outside yourself; that way lies betrayal and disappointment…what a man needs is her certainty that he is right, no self-doubt, no fleeting thought he might be wrong or misled. Absolute certainty that he is right, that’s what gives a man the confidence and power to do whatever he wants and to take whatever he wants from this world and the next.”
For nobody knows what’s just around the corner.
Others are more religiously inclined and this is their belief that drives them forward.
“The priests tell us that a man is born as he is because God wills it so, then they punish him for being that man. They tell us we are made in God’s image, then what is God’s image?”
But there is a quote I think that carries an important antidote to the internalized shame that many of us carry, to find where home is…to find what home is.
“It has taken me months, years perhaps , to fathom the answer. Home is the place you return to when you have finally lost your soul. Home is the place where life is born, not the place of your birth, but the place where you seek rebirth. When you no longer remember which tale of your own past is true and which is an invention, when you know that “you” are an invention, this is the time to seek out your home. Perhaps only when you have come to understand that can you finally reach home.”
There are twists and turns everywhere in this book, some expected, some unexpected. The last page is sure to send a shiver down your spine (no peeking!) This is a debut novel to be proud of.
This novel is both fictional and non-fiction all intertwined!
Something I love at the end of this book is there is a glossary of terms and some additional historical notes to aid us in making the most of the novel we’ve read.
We are left on this thought provoking note which rings true even today.
“As history continues to show us, any system of belief or religion can be used to help or harm depending on knowledge and intent of the individual.”
Amazon link below:
I really hope you enjoy this historical novel as much as I do.
Until next time,