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The Raven's Head by Karen Maitland

The Raven's Head

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The quest for eternal life; a tale of alchemy and skulduggery in the thirteenth century. Starting in France our young hero, Philippe, in the employment of a count in the court of Louis VIII discovers some false documents which he uses for a bit of blackmail ending with the lad fleeing for his life. He was to deliver a silver raven’s head to another noble man … Making his way to England he ends up with a lord obsessed with finding the secret to bring people back to life who is in cahoots with an abbot obsessed with finding the elixir to eternal life. Young boys are useful in their experiments … oh, and there is a girl … the local apothecary’s niece … so lots to keep you entertained. ~ Sarah Broadhurst

A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher...

'I’ve been Karen Maitland’s publisher since her first medieval novel, Company of Liars – which regularly tops lists of favourite historical novels. And working on these books is nothing less than a delight; each is unique and imaginative in its depiction of the Middle Ages. And yet they are all linked by Maitland’s trademark weaving of dark, sometimes deadly, threads of plot and the pleasure she takes in giving readers an insight into how greatly superstition and religion influenced attitudes and ways of life. In her hands the Middle Ages have never seemed so relevant; she finds echoes of our modern issues in the past – whether climate change in Company of Liars, the riots of 2011 in The Vanishing Witch or the power of the tabloid story in The Raven’s Head. Karen Maitland’s novels are supremely entertaining and addictive as well as educative, as any of her ardent fans will tell you.' - Publishing Director, Mari Evans

If you like Karen Maitland you might also like to read books by Anna Franklin, Philippa Gregory and Ken Follett.

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. It is 1224 and Vincent, a penniless, French librarian is in a dull, badly paid job. When he discovers a secret he attempts to blackmail his master, Gaspard, but it fails and he flees, taking with him a silver raven’s head (the alchemical symbol of death). Once in England, Vincent attempts to sell the raven’s head, but no-one is interested until he hears of the super-sinister sorcerer, Lord Sylvain. Like all Karen Maitland’s novels, this one is filled with magic and darkness, but believably done with great brio and attention to historical detail.
~ Julia Hamilton

Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion, some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

  • Sarah Warbey - 'you feel the filth and smell the stink of the time period, mixed in with a creepy dollop of supernatural horror, all of which build nicely into a corker of a thriller.' Read full review >
  • Vanessa Wild - 'A magical, spellbinding and sinister tale involving the dark arts set in medieval England!...In a nutshell, I loved it, quite enchanted in fact.' Read full review >
  • Victoria Whish - 'Karen Maitland conjures a potent brew of mystery and menace...If you like your fiction dark, earthy and full of foreboding, then you’ve come to the right place!' Read full review >
  • Margaret Freeman - 'A chilling tale, dark, mysterious and utterly absorbing.' Read full review >
  • Kerry Bridges - 'Karen Maitland's gothic novels are amongst the best in the genre in my opinion, they are so believable, it's terrifying!' Read full review >
  • Angela Rhodes - 'Having read her other books, I knew I was in for a treat, but what a treat! Loved it and want more!' Read full review >
  • Victoria Emerson - 'I didn't enjoy it as much as her previous work ... but persevered with it and I’m glad I did. Good but not great.' Read full review >
  • Rebecca Cockeram - 'Entertaining, but not a page turner.' Read full review >
  • Neil Williams - 'A dark and creepy tale of sorcery that transports you into Medieval Norfolk with three very different character stories. Would recommend.' Read full review >
  • Sara McLaughlin - 'History, alchemy and treachery are all woven together in a great narrative to make this a great read. A very enjoyable book – highly recommended.' Read full review >
  • Susan Walsh - 'Love it, love it, love it!...10/10 this in my view will be a magnificent bestseller.' Read full review >
  • Jennie Thrift - 'Definitely one to lose yourself in on a rainy afternoon...magic for grown ups!' Read full review >
  • Tessa Bennett - '...the novel becomes darker and at times chilling, but it is a compulsive read and you’ll be eagerly turning the pages to find out who will survive this supernatural masterpiece.' Read full review >
  • Sarah Hamid - 'A lively and engaging read...The characters are strong, the plot addictive and there's plenty of squeamish detail!' Read full review >
  • Jennifer Moville - 'This book leads you through a tale of intrigue, mystery, adventure and scary parts to give a rollocking good read.'  Read full review >
  • Vikki Patis - 'A wonderful historical fiction, full of the supernatural and intrigue, The Raven’s Head is yet another triumph for Maitland.'  Read full review >
  • Cathy Petersen - 'The pace is excellent and while there are some seriously dark elements to this tale it all fits together giving an authentic feel to the novel.'  Read full review >
  • Emilie - 'After reading this, I would definitely like to read her other books, and would recommend this story especially to lovers of tales of the supernatural.'  Read full review >


The Raven's Head by Karen Maitland

The Raven's Head by Karen Maitland, author of the bestselling and much-loved Company of Liars, will delight fans of Kate Mosse or Deborah Harkness seeking a new, dark fix. 'A compelling blend of historical grit and supernatural twists' Daily Mail on The Falcons of Fire and Ice Vincent is an apprentice librarian who stumbles upon a secret powerful enough to destroy his master. With the foolish arrogance of youth, he attempts blackmail but the attempt fails and Vincent finds himself on the run and in possession of an intricately carved silver raven's head. Any attempt to sell the head fails ...until Vincent tries to palm it off on the intimidating Lord Sylvain - unbeknown to Vincent, a powerful Alchemist with an all-consuming quest. Once more Vincent's life is in danger because Sylvain and his neighbours, the menacing White Canons, consider him a predestined sacrifice in their shocking experiment. Chilling and with compelling hints of the supernatural, The Raven's Head is a triumph for Karen Maitland, Queen of the Dark Ages.


About the Author

Karen Maitland

Karen Maitland travelled and worked in many parts of the United Kingdom before settling for many years in the beautiful medieval city of Lincoln, an inspiration for her writing. She is the author of The White Room, Company of Liars, The Owl Killers, The Gallows Curse and The Falcons of Fire and Ice. She has recently relocated to a life of rural bliss in Devon.

Click here to read a our Ask the Author feature on Karen Maitland.

Author photo © John C. Gibson

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Book Info

Publication date

27th August 2015


Karen Maitland

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Headline Review an imprint of Headline Publishing Group


512 pages


Historical Fiction
Reading Groups
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
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