In Chaucer's London, betrayal, murder, and intrigue swirl around the existence of a prophetic book that foretells the deaths of England's kings.
London, 1385: Surrounded by ruthless courtiers - including his powerful uncle, John of Gaunt, and Gaunt's artful mistress, Katherine Swynford - England's young king, Richard II, is in mortal peril. Songs are heard across London - catchy verses said to originate from an ancient book that prophesies the ends of England's kings - and among the book's predictions is Richard's assassination. Only a few powerful men know that the cryptic lines derive from a "burnable book", a seditious work that threatens the stability of the realm. To find the manuscript, wily bureaucrat Geoffrey Chaucer turns to fellow poet John Gower, a professional trader in information with connections high and low.
Gower discovers that the book and incriminating evidence about its author have fallen into the unwitting hands of innocents, who will be drawn into a conspiracy that reaches from the king's court to London's slums and stews - and potentially implicates Gower's own son. As the intrigue deepens, it becomes clear that John Gower, a man with secrets of his own, may hold the key to saving the king, and England itself.
Medieval scholar Bruce Holsinger draws on his vast knowledge of the period to add colorful, authentic detail - on everything from poetry and bookbinding to court intrigues and brothels - to this highly entertaining and brilliantly constructed literary mystery that brings medieval England gloriously to life.
©2014 Bruce Holsinger (P)2014 HarperCollins Publishers
Yes! Simon Vance is mesmerizing.
They are numerous. I have a great many audio books in my library, but this is the first one that I'm planning to listen to a second time.
Same excellent characterization as Hilary Mantel's Thomas Cromwell series, but tighter, darker plotting.
No; I'm trying to stretch it out so it does not end.
Go to the Amazon site for this book, and click "Look Inside." There you'll find a map and list of characters that will be most helpful.
The Ragtag Horde
Definitely Simon Vance again. He is one of my favorite narrators. As for Bruce Holsinger, no. I wanted to like this book - it is just my type -historical murder mystery set in Medieval London, but I just couldn't get into it. I kept expecting it to get more interesting, but it remained boring. For me none of the characters stood out as real people, and I didn't care what happened to them. I tried several times to get through, to see if I just hadn't been in the right mood, but I ended up abandoning it yet again.
Currently I am listening to Andrew Solomon's 'Far From The Tree', and, given that it is 33 hours long, I have no idea what I will want to listen to next.
I pretty much would listen to Simon Vance read a Cheerios box.
The descriptions of life in Medieval London were good.
This book rises well above the usual examples of the genre: historical fiction. The details of daily life in London have the feel of authenticity especially when delivered by the ever excellent Simon Vance. I did finally give up about 4 hours from the end because I just could not take any more "laying of pipe" - exposition - even when delivered by Vance. Should Mr. Holsinger continue to write fiction it is my hope his skills will grow beyond the traps of the neophyte.
Ph.D Candidate of Medieval English Literature concentrating on transgender and disability. Writer on theology and the LGBT community.
Too often medieval literature and history is discounted as at once stale and superstitious, a Christian age and a Dark age, yet in this piece of fiction Holsinger points readers to rediscover the surprises of a middle ages populated by a transgender community, humor, strong women, complex understandings of medicine, and shocking secrets.
Eleanor Rykner as written by Holsinger and performed by Simon Vance is based on a real transgender woman of the 14th century, here brought back to life after 500 years. As a scholar who poured over her voice written in Latin legal forms, it is a pleasure to hear Vance give her a modern English voice full of wit, compassion, and nuance.
The series of twists at the end of this mystery story keep on coming! Nothing is what it seems, yet neither are things ever merely a lie.
Life long compulsive reader & lover of recorded books
This could have been an excellent work of historical fiction. It is very well researched and detailed. The characters and their actions are believable. The author is able to pull us into the England of John of Gaunt, Kathryn Swinford and Chaucer; once we are there we find ourselves dazzled by the complexity and vividness of the characters but...why did we do all this time traveling for in the first place? The plot is too convoluted and there are too many characters involved. We loose our way!
The mistery looses its punch.
Simon Vance is flawless as narrator, as usual.
The story started out in a promising way, but the plot became complicated without being commensurately clever. There were quite a few characters whose motives were rather vague, and there were none that I pine to hear from again in future books. The story itself wouldn't have earned four stars from me, but it got an extra star for what struck me as authenticity in descriptions of the medieval setting. It was well read, so don't hesitate to try it if you are a fan of historical fiction.
The Book Snob for Paris Life Magazine.
Excellent narration and very enjoyable twisting historical mystery set in the time of Chaucer, chalk full of famous personalities, written by a professor who obviously knows his stuff. If you are much on historical fiction, you'll probably have read Kathryn, as in the mistress of John of Gaunt who has some famous Henries in his line of descendants. I had to read along with the audio to keep all the names/ events straight at first. Many memorable characters that aren't always what they seem. Very good book.
Many plot twists, full of political intrigues, inventive poetry, wonderfully researched history of Chaucer, Gower, and Richard Ii as well as Gaunt, and Katherine. Fascinating view of the "stews" and of the androgynous Eleanor:Edgar and all that "swerving". Simon Vance's voice is wonderful for every character.
How richly the period was portrayed. Sometimes it gave me pause because the author didn't always explain some of the language; leaving it to context. But I liked that and it didn't detract; once I accepted that I would understand in good time.
There were so many interesting, well developed, characters that I couldn't say which was my favorite. Each has his own special appeal and there were about 5 on my "favorites" list.
I was struck my his truly amazing "performance". He didn't just read his characters, he inhabited them, giving each it's own unique voice and doing it seamlessly. Simon is now on the top of my favorite performer list.
When Garrow's wife, unexpectedly expressed her remorse over the loss of their child
I found this book richer, and more polished, than Ken Follett's Pillars; which will always be a favorite of mine, but if you like Follett I can't help but believe you will love Holsinger, who's prose are just a bit more complex and sophisticated than Follett's.
I was struck my the fact that there was no reference made of Richards trials and tribulations; especially his dependence on the "favorites" that got him into so much trouble. But this wasn't really about him, so I didn't make too much of it.
Simon Vance did a great job as always. This book, however, was dull. Check the 1-3 star reviews on Amazon prior to purchasing - wish I had.
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