The Invention of Fire

  • by Bruce Holsinger
  • Narrated by Simon Vance
  • 13 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The richly atmospheric new historical thriller featuring John Gower, poet and trader of secrets. Set in the turbulent 14th century, this is perfect for fans of C. J. Sansom.
London, 1386: Young King Richard II faces the double threat of a French invasion and growing unrest amongst his barons - and now there's evil afoot in the city. Sixteen corpses have been discovered in a sewer, their wounds like none ever seen before. One thing is clear: Whoever threw the bodies into the sewer knew they would be found - and was powerful enough not to care.
Enter John Gower, poet and intellectual whose 'peculiar vocation' is dealing in men's secrets. Against the backdrop of medieval London with its grand palaces and churches, dark alleys, and mean backstreets, Gower pursues his dangerous quarry. Seeking insights from his friend, Geoffrey Chaucer, and using his network of contacts, Gower comes to the shocking belief that the men have been killed by a new and deadly weapon of war.
Known as 'the handgonne', it would put untold power into the hands of whoever perfected its design. But who has commissioned this weapon? A man who would stop at nothing to achieve his secret goal.


What the Critics Say

“The invention of handguns presages a radical change in warfare in Holsinger's skillful and engrossing second medieval thriller.... Holsinger is equally adept at depicting the machinations of the rich and powerful and the fears and hopes of the working class, desperate to hold on to their small scraps of ground in the face of the great events unfolding around them.” (Publishers Weekly starred review)
“This excellent historical thriller is narrated in a gloriously earthly language that is, long before Shakespeare and the King James Bible, still in the process of taking shape.” (Library Journal starred review)
“A cautionary tales that argues powerfully against handgonnes and their modern descendants.” (Kirkus Reviews)
Praise for A Burnable Book:
“An enjoyable story of murder and intrigue in 14th-century London.” (Sunday Times)
“Holsinger carries the reader to Oxford, Italy and Spain, but the highlight is his description of medieval London with its murky, poverty-stricken streets...enjoyable and intelligent.” (The Daily Mail)
“His profound knowledge of the 14th century provides a wonderfully convincing back-drop...his London feels like a real place, from St Paul's churchyard to Southwark's Gropecunt Lane. Comparisons with C.J. Sansom are inevitable, and justified.” (Andrew Taylor, The Spectator)
“John Gower is the perfect narrator and amateur sleuth.... Holsinger's research, alongside the energetic vulgarity of a language in flux, delivers up a world where even the filth is colorful.” (New York Times Book Review)
“A murder, a verse and a whore; the prologue of Bruce Holsinger`s A Burnable Book draws the reader in and does not let go. A deep understanding of the period combines with sophisticated writing to create a richly imagined world. Excellent historical fiction.” (Harry Sidebottom, best-selling author of the Warrior of Rome series)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Splendid medieval conspiracy romp.

Would you listen to The Invention of Fire again? Why?

Entertaining fusion of historical fact and fiction to tell a tale which is sufficiently intricate to warrant at least a second listen.

What did you like best about this story?

The author's helpful introduction gives the reader some interesting insights into life and times in the reign of Richard II. Though The Invention of Fire can be read on it's own, many of the characters and relationships were established in A Burnable Book (also very good). The friendship between Chaucer and Gower is a treat to read.

Which character – as performed by Simon Vance – was your favourite?

There is no stand out character because the narration throughout is excellent.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?


Any additional comments?


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- janice

Hated it from start to where I gave up ....!

What disappointed you about The Invention of Fire?

Confused story, unlikeable main character, average narration ....just very very boring

What was most disappointing about Bruce Holsinger’s story?

Lack of action, confusion in style of writing, tedium

Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Simon Vance?

Jonathan Keeble, Anton Lesser

What character would you cut from The Invention of Fire?

difficult to choose just one. There were far too many who sounded the same

Any additional comments?

I was really looking forward to this book but unfortunately it was one of only 3 I have not been able to finish due to the tedium. When you consider I have listened to Shogun at 55 hours long and this is only 13 hours .....

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Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-04-2015
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Limited