Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Historical Fiction: Gruesome Edition


Because I read so much historical fiction, I sometimes stumble across a particular sort of historical fiction that makes certain time periods seem absolutely terrifying and gruesome. Terrifying and gruesome in a wow-I’m-glad-I-didn’t-live-then-but-I-am-really-into-this-story kind of way, that is. Here are three recent reads of mine that totally fit this description. Check them out for some serious armchair time travel and then take a moment (or several) to acknowledge the awesomeness of hot showers, antibiotics, and due process of law.

The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch
Fair warning: this book opens with a graphic execution. Germany, 1649: Jakob Kuisl is a hangman, like his father before him and his father before him. Feared and scorned by the villagers, they nonetheless demand his help solving a mystery involving an occult symbol, suspected witchcraft, and the murder of outcast children. A fast-paced historical thriller not for the faint of heart!
Sinful Folk by Ned Hayes
Fair warning: this book opens with a fire that kills five young boys.  Based on a vaguely recorded event in England in 1377, this is the story of a small party of fathers traveling to  seek an audience with the king to demand vengeance for their children who died in the blaze. While some of the party believe the blame lies with the often scapegoated Jewish people, Mear knows someone in their midst is guilty, and aims to find out who. But Mear also has dangerous secrets to hide.

Company of Liars by Karen Maitland
Fair warning: this book just plain freaked me out. Set in England during the outbreak of the Black Plague in 1348, this is a loose interpretation of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Nine strangers are brought together and together they must outrun the sickness that nips at their heels. It’s not the Plague that cuts down the travelers one by one, though: there is a rottenness spreading from within.

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