The year is 1210 and a black force is sweeping England. A vengeful King John has seized control of the Church, leaving corpses to lie in consecrated ground, babies unbaptized, and the people terrified of dying in sin. In the village of Gastmere, the consequences grow darker still when Elena, a servant girl, is dragged into a conspiracy to absolve the sins of the lord of the manor. In desperation she visits the cunning woman, who has been waiting for just such an opportunity to fulfil an ancient curse conjured at the gallows.
©2011 Karen Maitland (P)2011 Oakhill Publishing Limited
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Critic reviews

"Atmospheric and original." (Woman and Home)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Kaggy on 14-01-16

The trouble with Mandrake

I am not normally a fan of full-on witchcraft and fantasy stories but the good reviews intrigued me so I decided to give this a go. To my relief I found that this is a credible story and is primarily about the harsh lives led by medieval peasants and they way they were maltreated by their overlords. This is set in the time when King John seized control of the church and as a result people could not get proper burials and be absolved of their sins. An innocent young woman, Elena, is duped into eating the sins of a dead crusader by his friend Rafael. This allows the crusader to go to heaven but leaves Elena with the burden of the terrible acts he perpetrated while at war. Despite this evil deed, Rafael is a tragic anti-hero, whose life is marred by the fact he has been made a gelding and in middle age speaks with the voice of a young child. He is treacherous but is not completely dishonourable and his struggle with his feelings for Elena is very poignant. What follows is a satisfying tale of revenge, murder, betrayal and love. Karen Maitland weaves a vivid story and the sections describing folklore (some of which is still practiced to this day) suggest she has done a great deal background research. My only criticism of the story is that I did think some of the sections were a bit ponderous and the plot could have been tightened up a bit more, but it is still a thumping good yarn.

I enjoyed David Thorpe's reading but struggled a bit with Rafael’s voice. I expected him to speak with the voice of a pre-pubescent boy but it sounded a bit too shrill to my ear. It was however distinct, and there was no danger of me confusing him with any of the other characters.

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22 of 23 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Hannah May on 16-04-17

Depressing, over long and dull

What did you like best about The Gallows Curse? What did you like least?

The main character is a whiny brat and almost impossible to like but the setting is well researched and believable.

What could Karen Maitland have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Shortened it, added some emotional highlights to the characters and given it a satisfying ending.

Did David Thorpe do a good job differentiating each of the characters? How?

The characters were well differentiated but the high pitched character grates and annoys.

Could you see The Gallows Curse being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

No idea.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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