Can you tell I’ve been on a bit of a historical kick lately? I read a few of Karen Maitland’s previous books based in medieval England – her Company of Liars remains one of the best medieval-set books I’ve ever read, based on the Canterbury Tales. Her newest novel, The Drowned City is set in Jacobean England, in the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot. The first under the new penname K.J. Maitland, this introduces Daniel Pursglove as the hero of this series. As expected, I really enjoyed The Drowned City. Massive thanks to Headline and Caitlin Raynor for sending me a copy for review – all opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 01/04/2021
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: 1606. A year to the day that men were executed for conspiring to blow up Parliament, a towering wave devastates the Bristol Channel. Some proclaim God’s vengeance. Others seek to take advantage.
In London, Daniel Pursglove lies in prison waiting to die. But Charles FitzAlan, close adviser to King James I, has a job in mind that will free a man of Daniel’s skill from the horrors of Newgate. If he succeeds.
For Bristol is a hotbed of Catholic spies, and where better for the lone conspirator who evaded arrest, one Spero Pettingar, to gather allies than in the chaos of a drowned city? Daniel journeys there to investigate FitzAlan’s lead, but soon finds himself at the heart of a dark Jesuit conspiracy – and in pursuit of a killer. (from Headline Review)
OPINIONS: I love me a book that starts in a hopeless situation, it reminds me of one of my favourite D&D campaigns that I got to play. When the story sets out, Daniel Pursglove thinks he’s about to be executed. But instead he is sent on a mission. Bristol has just been overrun by a tsunami-like flood (which actually happened!) and there are suspicions of Catholics. When Daniel gets to Bristol, he comes across a series of murders where the victims were branded as Jesuits. And damn, not many books manage to have the resolution of the mystery come out of left field like The Drowning City did. I had NO IDEA what was going on until the reveal, and I loved it.
At its heart, The Drowning City is a character book. That is one of Maitland’s great strengths. While some of her earlier books struggled a bit with slow pacing, at least as far as I remember them, but that is not an issue with this one. It is consistently keeping up tension and manages to toe the line between character work and pacing. Daniel is a wonderful lead character, and Rachael, the love interest and tavern maid is just as compelling a character. She is sassy, smart and driven, and doesn’t let Daniel live down his behaviour. I really enjoyed seeing their relationship develop alongside the main plot.