In Chaucer’s London, betrayal, murder and intrigue swirl around the existence of a prophetic book that foretells the deaths of England’s kings. A Burnable Book is an irresistible thriller, reminiscent of classics like An Instance of the Fingerpost, The Name of the Rose and The Crimson Petal and the White.
London, 1385. Surrounded by ruthless courtiers—including his powerful uncle, John of Gaunt, and Gaunt’s flamboyant mistress, Katherine Swynford—England’s young, still untested king, Richard II, is in mortal peril, and the danger is only beginning. Songs are heard across London—catchy verses said to originate from an ancient book that prophesies the end 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 labyrinthine conspiracy that reaches from the king’s court to London’s slums and stews–and potentially implicates his own son. As the intrigue deepens, it becomes clear that Gower, a man with secrets of his own, may be the last hope to save a king from a terrible fate.
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 epic literary mystery that brings medieval England gloriously to life.
Wow there are such details in the writing of this book, the research that has been done to this book was a great feat. There are rather a lot of characters, i found a little confusing at times but at the front of the book there is a handy cast of characters which I referred you when I needed it.
I loved the Edgar / Eleanor character, it is something I wouldn´t have expected during the 1300´s.
This is a remarkable book for a debut, the author has superb knowledge on medieval times in London and this show in the novel. Loads of the characters are real people from that time.
My only complaint is that I found it a little long winded at times, almost needing an edit but apart from that it is a super novel.
The book takes you from the high life of King Richard II to the slums of London, with details of the time which brought it alive. It is mostly based in London, but there are a few parts in Italy.
It is written in the first person from Gower´s point of view but all other characters are in the third person.
I was a little confused at the end of the book as I would have like to known what happened to Simon as this wasn´t made clear, but there is a second book called The Invention of Fire (due out April 2015) where I hope there are some answers. I have this as an ARC ready to be read soon.
I was unsure if this deserved 3 1/2 stars or 4, but as I don´t do half stars I awarded it 4.
Bruce Holsinger is a fiction writer and scholar of medieval literature who teaches in the Department of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. His debut novel, A BURNABLE BOOK, is set in the alleys and halls of medieval London, where the poets Geoffrey Chaucer and John Gower spent much of their lives.
He is also the author or editor of six nonfiction books on medieval literature and culture. His work has garnered major awards from the Modern Language Association, the American Musicological Society, and the Medieval Academy of America. His research has been recognized with a Guggenheim Fellowship, and he is the recipient of research fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Council of Learned Societies.
Bruce lives in Charlottesville, Virginia with his family.
About the book
- File Size: 920 KB
- Print Length: 467 pages
- Publisher: William Morrow; Reprint edition (February 18, 2014)
- Sold by:HarperCollins Publishers
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00DB36D9K