The Gallows Curse - Karen Maitland Whilst, for me, this novel didn't engaged as much as its predecessors [b:Company of Liars|2761171|Company of Liars|Karen Maitland||2786880] and [b:The Owl Killers|5263374|The Owl Killers|Karen Maitland||5330690] its evocation of Medieval England and the delicious mixing of natural and supernatural make for an entertaining, satisfying read.

Set in 1210, during the time of Pope Innocent's Interdict of 1208, which rendered England spiritually desolate by closing down the churches for six years as punishment for King John’s refusal to accept Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury. The Edict removed the sacraments and Christian services including a shriven Christian burial.

The practise of, and belief in pagan myth, magic and superstition was part of everyday life and is at the centre of this tale. The book has an intriguing narrator in the shape of ‘Yadua’ the mandrake, a plant shrouded in lore and superstition who at the start of each chapter reads from the “The Mandrake’s Herbal” which tells of the various powers of herbs, animals, trees and flowers and there use in witchcraft. A nice, original touch which gives an atmosphere of foreboding throughout

The story focuses on two main characters: The lord of the manor’s middle-aged steward, Raffaelle, who has a dark past including crimes committed during the Crusades, for which he believes he is eternally dammed. And Elena, a 15-year-old serving girl, tricked into becoming a sin eater to absolve the sins of the lord of the manner. This all goes horribly wrong and leaves Elena haunted by the curse and blamed for a murder she didn’t commit. She flees her village with the aided by Raffaelle, who blames himself for the girl’s predicament.

So the reader is plunged into a medieval world of betrayal, revenge, superstition, religion and treason. As with the author’s other novels there is a collection of wonderfully drawn characters, the one that was the most interesting to me was the brothel Madam and not either of the leads…maybe that is why I didn’t fall in love with it as much as Company of Liars.

Karen Maitland is building a reputation for twisty-turney ambiguous endings and this one doesn’t disappoint…

Overall a good solid read but lacking something …maybe the ambition and sheer ingenuity of [b:Company of Liars|2761171|Company of Liars|Karen Maitland||2786880].