The Captain’s Log – the gallows curse (Karen Maitland)

Ahoy there me mateys!  So the first book I read by the author was the owl killers about beguinages.  That was a five star read.  In 2019 I read the falcons of fire and ice which was only okay.  But I continued to enjoy her viewpoints into the magic, myths, and politics of the middle ages so this year as a gift to meself I bought two more of her novels.

This book was set in the time of King John of England in 1210 when Pope Innocent III had excommunicated the King and placed the country under interdict.  With priests unable to perform duties and disputes with France continuing, it was a period of great unrest.  The story follows several different characters.  The main two are Elena, a serving girl, and Raffaelle, an castrato steward.  Elena is accused of murdering her child and is sentenced to hang but Raffaelle has (many) reasons to help her escape the gallows.

This book involves is a twisty plot dealing with conspiracy, revenge, shame, secrets, politics, religion, and cunning magic.  The way the story unfolds means that much of the time the reader isn’t quite sure what is going on.  While Elena grated on my nerves a bit due to her naiveté, I did want to know how everything resolved.  How Raffaelle’s storyline resolved was ultimately satisfying even if his great secret wasn’t really interesting to me.  Elena’s ending was unresolved in the end.

There were also a couple of plot aspects and at least five characters that were there for overall drama but didn’t get actual endings and just kinda disappeared at the end.  Some crew also may not like the mandrake as a pseudo character and kind of narrator.

That said, I really enjoyed the time period and the look into some of the consequences of the interdict.  I liked the brief foray into Yarmouth’s history at this time and how the town was set up.  I certainly was engaged while reading.  I definitely want to read the novel set during 1348 in the Black Plague and the other set in 1361 when the plague strikes again.  Arrr!

Goodreads had this to say about the novel:

Set in the reign of King John, when the whole of England was under sentence of excommunication (among other issues, King John wouldn’t accept the Pope’s choice of Archbishop). Can you imagine the chaos – all the churches closed, King John in retaliation arresting every priest who hadn’t fled and the people terrified of dying in sin without the last rites? No burials were permitted on consecrated land, no marriages were conducted, no babies baptized. But I don’t want to reveal much more, except to say the plot involves people-trafficking, murder and, oh yes… a very feisty dwarf and a eunuch with a hunger for revenge.

To visit the author’s website go to:
Karen Maitland – Author

To buy the novel please visit:
the gallows curse – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:
Yer Ports for Plunder List

Previous Log Entries for this Author
the falcons of fire and ice (Captain’s Log – Fantasy)


2 thoughts on “The Captain’s Log – the gallows curse (Karen Maitland)

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