Requiem for a Knave

Written by Laura Carlin
Review by Edward James

This is a dark Gothic tale set in late Mediaeval England, structured as a pilgrimage from a village in Derbyshire to the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk. One of the pilgrims is an orphaned teenager who has never been outside his (or maybe her) own village, so the story is in part a coming-of-age story, a story of self-discovery narrated by the character concerned many years later in old age. It is also a lesbian love story and a mass-murder mystery.

It is told in a flowery literary style such as a narrator might have used in the 14th century, using enough Mediaeval words to sound authentic without being inaccessible. The principal character is plausible enough, although born in extraordinary circumstances, but the secondary character, Rosamund, sounds very out of place in the Middle Ages, ever eager to explain her theories about role expectations and sexual identity. I appreciate that the author has a message she wishes to get across, but surely Rosamund is several centuries ahead of her time, even for a ‘wise woman’ (aka ‘witch’).

Nonetheless this is an enjoyable read with an inventive and unusual plot.