British author Sykes establishes herself firmly as a major talent with this hard-edged sequel to 2015’s Plague Land. In 1351, Oswald de Lacy, the lord of Kent’s Somershill Manor, learns that his life is a lie. He’s actually the son of a peasant, switched at birth with the true heir, Thomas Starvecrow, who died in infancy. The revelation leads him to seek out Starvecrow’s grave, which turns out to contain only an effigy. Meanwhile, Oswald’s manorial court must deal with madman John Barrow, who claims to have been confronted by a monstrous bird that escaped into the night. Barrow becomes the target of a lynch mob after the corpse of a newborn girl, only just baptized, is left impaled on a thorn bush, as if by a butcher bird or shrike large enough to carry off a child. Sykes artfully integrates both puzzles with the politics of the time, as the survivors of the recent plague, which killed about half the English population, deal with its economic repercussions. Agent: Gordon Wise, Curtis Brown (U.K.). (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/15/2016 Release date: 04/01/2016 Genre: Fiction
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