Book Review – A Gathering of Ghosts by Karen Maitland

A Gathering of Ghosts

A Gathering of Ghosts by Karen Maitland is a historical fiction novel with dark fantasy elements. Set in the wilds of Dartmoor in the year 1316, the story centres around the isolated Priory of St. Mary, home to the Sisters of the Knights of St. John. At this priory, led by Prioress Johanne, they see to the infirmed who are in need of care, as well as provide shelter for pilgrims and other travelers making their way across the hazardous countryside. Their main attraction is the healing well that sits in a cave beneath their chapel, once associated with a pagan goddess but now dedicated to Saint Mary, which brings them many visitors from near and far.

With the country at large gripped by the Great Famine and tin miners ravaging the moorland for its precious ore nearby, everybody is feeling the strain as desperate times become worse and worse, including heavy rains that seem unending. The arrival of three strangers to Dartmoor—a knight, a blind child, and a woman with a withered arm—only seems to make matters worse, as soon after their arrival the holy well is beset upon by uncanny plagues.Read More »

WWW Wednesday – December 8, 2021

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WWW Wednesday is a weekly book meme run by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. Check out her post and others over on her blog!

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Currently Reading

Nothing! I’m in between books at the moment.


Recently Finished

A Gathering of GhostsOver the weekend I managed to finish reading the bulk of A Gathering of Ghosts by Karen Maitland, though I didn’t officially finish it until Monday night because I insisted on reading the Historical Notes and Glossary at the back as well. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, with everything coming together in an excellent way by the end. The only shortcoming, which I’ve touched on before, is how slow the story is. The more thoughtful pace was definitely great for world-building and developing its characters, but it could also feel drawn out at times. So, the slower pace may turn off some people, but it’s otherwise a great historical read that incorporates mysticism of the time and place into the world. I’ll try to have a full review up soon, schedule permitting.


Reading Next

The Complete CosmicomicsSo here we are, with five more books to complete on my Goodreads challenge and one more on my main to-read list for 2021. I will be starting The Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino as soon as possible, though hopefully it won’t take too long to read. It’s a short story collection, but hopefully that will help make the whole thing more digestible. I still intend to read The Immortal Hulk, Vol. 9: The Weakest One There Is by Al Ewing et al. soon, as well as finally finish Hope is the Thing with Feathers, which leaves two more books I need to read in order to meet my goal. They will surely be graphic novels, it’s just a matter of picking which ones.

Until next week, thank you for reading! Feel free to share your own post down below.

WWW Wednesday – December 1, 2021

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WWW Wednesday is a weekly book meme run by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. Check out her post and others over on her blog!

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Currently Reading

A Gathering of GhostsI only managed about another 60 pages of A Gathering of Ghosts by Karen Maitland, and I’m honestly feeling a little at a loss for words on what to say about it. A lot of the conflicts established early on were fairly low-key, though promising something more climactic later on. In this vein, however, the story has gotten a little repetitive from time to time as these issues are reiterated. It has done a great job of building tension though too, and I can’t help but wonder if certain aspects will erupt into a phantasmagoria in stark contrast to the bleakness of the world so far. Either way, some more recent events have been a grisly portents of things too come. I wonder just how much horror will come into play here.


Recently Finished

Mary Wept Over the Feet of JesusTechnically, I finished reading Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus by Chester Brown, a graphic novel that meditates on prostitution and disobedience in the Bible. I say technically because I’ve gotten past the Afterword and Acknowledgements, but there’s an extensive Notes section at the back that I want to read through too, so I’m not finished with it just yet. Though as a graphic novel it was an enjoyable read, it was also clearly written with more academic intent than wholly creative. The Afterword is really necessary to put the whole thing into proper context and understand where Brown is coming from, especially as I’m someone who knows very little about Christianity in practice. The main bulk of it was a rather quick read, and even as someone outside of the belief system, it was a rather fascinating interpretation of these stories.


Reading Next

Immortal Hulk The Weakest One There IsThe Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino is still in my not-too-distant future, but I’ve still got far too much unfinished business first. In the meantime, however, I will get to more graphic novels. The next will be The Immortal Hulk, Vol. 9: The Weakest One There Is by Al Ewing et al. I bought a digital version of this volume a few days ago thanks to a sale and I’m looking forward to continuing this series after the grisly note the last book left on.

Until next week, thank you for reading! Feel free to share your own post down below.

WWW Wednesday – November 24, 2021

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WWW Wednesday is a weekly book meme run by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. Check out her post and others over on her blog!

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Currently Reading

A Gathering of GhostsSince last week I was able to read some more of A Gathering of Ghosts by Karen Maitland, though my progress was just shy of 100 pages. The novel continues to be a pretty slow burn, though certain elements are starting to come together in interesting ways. The magical elements of this story seem to be genuine, but are very subdued, showing old pagan beliefs falling to the wayside with the ever-growing prominence of Christianity. I don’t know how true it all is, but it’s been teaching me interesting little factoids I had no idea of about the 1300s, a time I know very little about. Apparently, they saw frogs as evil and unclean creatures. I’m aghast at the very idea! I hope the snake on the cover has a role to play.


Recently Finished

Nothing this week, I’m afraid.


Reading Next

The Complete CosmicomicsWith only so much time left in the year, I have to be realistic about what I think I can finish. There are two more books in mind that I want to get done, but I’ve decided to prioritize one over the other. The next book I’m going to read is The Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino. I’ve only read one other Calvino book so far, but I really enjoyed how unconventional and meta it was, so I’m excited to check this out, which seems to be altogether different. I don’t know too much about it, except I think the narrator is a weird consciousness in space and it’s a collection of short stories. Once I finish this book, after A Gathering of Ghosts, I will have at least finished by scrappy to-read list for the year.

Until next week, thank you for reading! Feel free to share your own post down below.

WWW Wednesday – November 17, 2021

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WWW Wednesday is a weekly book meme run by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. Check out her post and others over on her blog!

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Currently Reading

A Gathering of GhostsSince last week I once again had an unexpected amount of free time, so I was able to get a good start on A Gathering of Ghosts by Karen Maitland. I’m enjoying the book, though it has been a little slow-paced so far. Not necessarily a bad thing, I’m just surprised with how much things feel like they’re still being established despite the fact I’m 100 pages into the book now. Strange happenings have taken place and changes are afoot, but a core conflict or concern has yet to fully materialize. Nevertheless, I do enjoy a slow burn, and I like the light-fantasy and spooky vibes the book is giving, so I’m excited to get further along. It’s done a great job of capturing just how bleak impoverished life must have been in the 1300s too. Nothing Romantic about all this muck and hunger.


Recently Finished

Manga Diary of a Male Porn Star 1Late last week I read through Manga Diary of a Male Porn Star by Kaeruno Erefante, which made for a quick and very amusing read. It wasn’t too heavy on plot or character, but in this way fulfilled its role as a diary very well. Keeping in mind how these are somebody else’s lived experiences, however embellished, made it easy to look past these shortcomings. I managed to learn a thing or two as well, such as, apparently, a stigma around the adult film industry in Japan is the fact that many people cannot separate the industry from its past association with the yakuza (the Japanese mafia). I also learned that the author does not draw himself as a bean, but rather frog—a rather minimalist frog at that. His reason for doing so is essentially a dirty joke, so I’ll spare any who would mind that. I look forward to reading more of this series.

Salems LotI also used my surprise free time to finish reading ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. I wanted to have a review up before today, but being completely honest, I haven’t even started it yet. My priorities are all over the place, I guess. I really enjoyed this book, at any rate, though there were definite peaks and valleys throughout the story. I absolutely loved all of the prose discussing the town itself, especially as the scourge of vampires slowly makes victims out of everybody in town. The ragtag group of intellectuals coming to grips with the fact that vampires are the problem? I found them inconsistently compelling. I understand that an American vampire novel in 1975, one that refers so much to the films more recent to that time, needs to have the characters come to grips with the seeming impossibility of it all, but it could have been accomplished faster. Too much time spent on skepticism when the reader knows it’s definitely vampires.


Reading Next

This is anybody’s guess right now, to be honest. I have plans, but I’m too in the weeds with A Gathering of Ghosts to commit to anything. I’m also very tired; I have been awake since 4:30 PM yesterday, so I think I will bid you all adieu for now. I’ll have better reading plans to tell you about next week, I’m sure.

Until next week, thank you for reading! Feel free to share your own post down below.

WWW Wednesday – November 3, 2021

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WWW Wednesday is a weekly book meme run by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. Check out her post and others over on her blog!

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Currently Reading

Salems LotWorking two jobs took a particular toll on me this past week for some reason, but I did manage to sneak in a little bit of reading ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King anyway. I’m 117 pages in now, so I’ve managed to more than double my page count since last week, but I’ve still got a long way to go. This book has got me continually wanting to nod my head and say “vintage King” aloud with approval. I’m loving the small town setting and cavalcade of small town people. The horror factor is insidiously burrowing its way into these peoples’ lives too, and I wonder if I will slowly behold the undoing of all of them. I’m especially enjoying how much certain facets of the plot are reminding me of the plot of Dracula. I wonder how closely it will follow those lines, or if it’s only lightly referential.


Recently Finished

Nothing this week, sadly. Even my Halloween was bogged down with work. 💀


Reading Next

Scott Pilgrim Color Edition Digital OmnibusI still intend to start A Gathering of Ghosts by Karen Maitland next, but obviously that will still have to wait for at least another week. In the meantime, I do have a lot of comic books that need reading, many of which are from the two Star Wars: The High Republic series that I’ve been following. I’m way behind on those, and I’m already hearing about “phase one” of The High Republic ending soon. I think, by next week, I will make a concerted effort to start Scott Pilgrim: Digital Omnibus by Bryan Lee O’Malley as well, so I can read it again in colour. I really ought to continue Hope is the Thing with Feathers too… 😓

Until next week, thank you for reading! Feel free to share your own post down below.

WWW Wednesday – October 27, 2021

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WWW Wednesday is a weekly book meme run by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. Check out her post and others over on her blog!

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Currently Reading

Salems LotI was finally able to start reading ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King later last week, though I’m only about 50 pages in at the moment. I’m sad that I won’t be finishing it before Halloween, but I expected that possibility already. I’m busier than normal, and in previous years this would often happen anyway. I’m enjoying the book so far, though it’s taking its time at the moment. I didn’t realize there was a “chapter two switcheroo” so to speak, with the prologue taking place after what I can only assume is at least a huge chunk of the story. Though I know what it’s building to already, I’m enjoying the mystique being built around the Marsten House concurrently with the arrival of its mysterious new resident.


Recently Finished

The Grip of ItIn the middle of last week I finished reading The Grip of It by Jac Jemc, though regretfully I’ve not had the time to finish up a review for it just yet. I’m expecting I will have one up by Friday, just in time for Halloween. With all said and done, I did really enjoy this novel, and a prediction of mine from last week came true. It was specifically that the story would amount to something much more up to interpretation than concrete that came true, which is the lesser of two evils, I suppose. Upon reflection, the ways in which it leaves things up to interpretation are actually quite clever, because you cannot simply reduce everything to the perspective characters being unreliable. It’s a book I would love to have a long, in-person conversation about, but I don’t know anybody who has read it yet.

The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath (2)I also read through the graphic novel adaptation of The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath by I.N.J. Culbard, adapting the short story by H.P. Lovecraft. I was right, I did enjoy this story much more visually than I did Lovecraft’s prose, but there is definitely something lost when considered by itself rather than the culmination of a number of Dream Cycle stories. It helps that I’ve read them, of course, but I wish this book had instead been a part of something bigger. This isn’t even the first Lovecraft story to involve Randolph Carter, nor the numerous denizens of the dream lands that he encounters. Still, it is a worthwhile read and far more accessible than his prose, so it’s worth checking out if you’re at all curious about his work.


Reading Next

A Gathering of GhostsWith all of this consideration for Halloween going on, I actually hadn’t given much thought toward what I want to read next. With autumn still in full swing and myself continuing to be in a horror mood, however, I think I will make good on my old September plans and start reading A Gathering of Ghosts by Karen Maitland next. When this will be is hard to say, since I will probably be reading ‘Salem’s Lot for the next little while, but hopefully I can push for more reading time instead of other leisure activities to pick up the slack. Easier said than done, in practice, but we’ll see.

Until next week, thank you for reading! Feel free to share your own post down below.

WWW Wednesday – September 15, 2021

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WWW Wednesday is a weekly book meme run by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. Check out her post and others over on her blog!

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Currently Reading

Nothing, I’m in between books at the moment. Once again I haven’t touched Hope is the Thing with Feathers: The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson either. When I have the time to read, I just don’t turn to it.


Recently Finished

Axiom's EndOver the weekend I managed to finish Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis, and I must say that I ended up loving this book more than I expected to. I didn’t expect to dislike it or anything, but it struck an unexpected chord with me. I guess I’m just a sucker for inhuman characters, though I do think the dynamic between Cora and the alien Ampersand is very compellingly written, regardless of my inclinations. It serves as a great first contact story and an exploration of personal connection between two people. Intimate, but not exactly romantic. It wasn’t without its issues, as I feel a few threads didn’t go anywhere when I was expecting them to go somewhere, but the heart of the story was so good it didn’t matter too much to me. I’m really excited for the forthcoming sequel now. I will hopefully have a full review up soon.


Reading Next

A Gathering of GhostsAny day now I’m going to start reading Jingo by Terry Pratchett, it’s just a matter of making time to read, which is harder to do when other hobbies often take precedence during downtime. With only two weeks left in September, I’m afraid it’s very unlikely that I’ll even get to start A Gathering of Ghosts by Karen Maitland, let alone finish it before the start of October. It’s not formally among my Halloween reads for the year, so it’ll probably have to be bumped until November or December. It’s on my yearly to-read list, so I’ll be trying to make extra certain that I finish it before 2022, regardless.

Until next week, thank you for reading! Feel free to share your own post down below.

WWW Wednesday – September 1, 2021

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WWW Wednesday is a weekly book meme run by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. Check out her post and others over on her blog!

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Currently Reading

No progress made on Hope is the Thing with Feathers: The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, I’m sorry to say.

Axiom's EndSince last week I’ve gotten to page 117 of Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis, so unfortunately progress has been very slow. I’m still adjusting to the new freelance job, but the good news on that front is that I’ve gotten past the training period, so it’s great that I’ll get to continue doing editing work for the time being. Things have taken a greater turn in the novel since last week, despite the limited progress. Cora has now formed an alliance of sorts with an alien who is searching for those of his kind in human custody, both of them on the run with little at their disposal. I’m really enjoying their dynamic and the shift in their relationship, which was initially more frightening and forceful. I’m especially fond of just how alien Ampersand (the alien) is too, in body and mind, while still being able to broker communication.


Recently Finished

Nothing this week, sad to say. Reading really has taken a hit. I should probably try to get through a comic or two soon, just so I don’t fall too far behind on things.


Reading Next

A Gathering of GhostsI did have a summer TBR planned out that was meant to extend until the end of September, but with the change in employment situation I’m not sure that I can commit to my original plans. To stay on top of things as much as possible, however, I will say that I tentatively plan to read two other books this month. The first will by Jingo by Terry Pratchett. I intend to read one of these every quarter and I can’t be falling behind on that. The other is A Gathering of Ghosts by Karen Maitland. I continue to suspect this book will be a nice lead-in for the Halloween season, but would like to get it read before October to make room for other spooky books. So there we have it. Hopefully I can get to these. I really just need to rearrange how I spend my spare time.

Until next week, thank you for reading! Feel free to share your own post down below.