Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

"So that's settled, then; we bury her alive in the iron bridle."

So begins a prologue. This is the first thing said in the novel and is effective as it's dialogue that moves plot forward, or in this case introduces plot and conflict with no set up or exposition. See - it is possible to begin a story with conflict but without exposition.

On the downside, there's the pronouns, but even though this line uses pronouns they are pronouns that are willing to commit violence against other pronouns, so it's forgiven, especially as it's dialogue. Anyone speaking this line is already in the middle of an event; it would sound weird if the speaker identified him/herself and the victim in this line, when both speaker and listener already know the players in the drama. But by the second paragraph all the characters are revealed, though still nameless. It is a wonderfully unobtrusive telling and reads naturally - showing the writer has confidence in her characters to tell their own story.

The rest of the short prologue continues as a group of people discuss the best way to kill a woman they obviously think is evil.

Chapter 1:

They say that if you suddenly wake with a shudder, a ghost has walked over your grave.

Beginning with a proverb has its risks, as beginning with an expression everyone's heard betrays a lack of creativity. However, as this is obviously an historical novel, it builds upon the superstitions of the characters that were begun in the prologue. The rest of the first paragraph has something of preambling to it, and begins in a bed and then slows down to description (which is well done) and weather before grinding to a halt with thick paragraphs of back story by page 2.

From the prologue to chapter 1 there is a POV switch from third person to first person. As the prologue is so short it's tolerable in this situation. If the prologue were longer it would be distracting.

Verdict: Pass

...on the strength of the writing style and prologue.

Theodore Moracht

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