Read Plague Land by S.D. Sykes Online


Oswald de Lacy was never meant to be the Lord of Somerhill Manor. Despatched to a monastery at the age of seven, sent back at seventeen when his father and two older brothers are killed by the Plague, Oswald has no experience of running an estate. He finds the years of pestilence and neglect have changed the old place dramatically, not to mention the attitude of the survivOswald de Lacy was never meant to be the Lord of Somerhill Manor. Despatched to a monastery at the age of seven, sent back at seventeen when his father and two older brothers are killed by the Plague, Oswald has no experience of running an estate. He finds the years of pestilence and neglect have changed the old place dramatically, not to mention the attitude of the surviving peasants.Yet some things never change. Oswald's mother remains the powerful matriarch of the family, and his sister Clemence simmers in the background, dangerous and unmarried.Before he can do anything, Oswald is confronted by the shocking death of a young woman, Alison Starvecrow. The ambitious village priest claims that Alison was killed by a band of demonic dog-headed men. Oswald is certain this is nonsense, but proving it by finding the real murderer is quite a different matter. Every step he takes seems to lead Oswald deeper into a dark maze of political intrigue, family secrets and violent strife.And then the body of another girl is found.Sarah Sykes brilliantly evokes the landscape and people of medieval Kent in this thrillingly suspenseful debut."...

Title : Plague Land
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781444785777
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 340 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Plague Land Reviews

  • Barbara
    2019-04-01 21:11

    Oswald de Lacy, sent to live in a monastery when he was 7-years-old, returns home to become Lord of Somerhill Manor after his father and brothers succumb to the plague. It's the mid-1300s, and being head of the plague-afflicted manor isn't easy. Many of the estate's rent-paying tenants died and their dilapidated homes are falling apart; there are barely enough workers to harvest the manor's crops; the self-serving village priest, John of Cornwall, encourages superstition and sells fake religious relics; Lacy's mother is domineering and his unmarried sister Clemence is difficult; and to top it off a young girl, Alison Starvecrow, has been found dead in the woods. Moreover, the dead girl visited Somerhall Manor looking for Oswald shortly before she was murdered. Because the plague killed the village constable, it falls to Oswald to look into Alison's death. However Oswald is seriously unequipped for the task. He's only 18-years-old, has been sheltered for most of his life, and knows much more about the Bible and Greek literature than everyday life. Neverthless, Oswald's mentor, elderly Brother Peter, convinces the boy to investigate Alison's demise. This is made more difficult by Priest John, who claims that satanic dog-headed men killed the girl. The priest organizes prayer sessions and relic sales to ward off the creatures - coincidentally drawing the villagers away from their much-needed work in the fields.Oswald looks into Alison's death, concludes she was murdered, and promises to find the killer. And matters escalate even further when another girl disappears. Oswald looks for clues, questions witnesses, and tries to find viable suspects - but criminal investigations in the 1300s were pretty primitive. (Note: I can't help but think a lot of people literally got away with murder in those days.)While all this is going on, Oswald's sister Clemence becomes engaged to a neighbor, a bad-natured, previously married wife-abuser who hopes to take over Somerhill Manor by any means. As a result Oswald's life is endangered, he has some dreadful adventures, and he meets a boy with terrible birth defects. Oswald also has to deal with his mother - who tries to get him betrothed to a dull young cousin he doesn't like, and with the shocking (to him) discovery that his father left a dozen or so illegitimate children scattered around the village.I think the book succeeds pretty well as a historical novel, giving the reader a little taste of life in England in the Middle Ages: the feudal system, the arranged marriages, the weddings, the jails, the courts, and so on. It's also an okay suspense story, and Oswald does solve the crimes in the end. I prefer modern mysteries but I think fans of historical mysteries would enjoy this book.You can follow my reviews at

  • Diane S ☔
    2019-03-28 21:53

    Sent to a monastery at the age of seven Oswald, the youngest son, never expected to inherit his family manor and holdings. Thanks to the plague which has devastated the land, taking the lives of Oswald's father and two elder brothers, leaving only his mother and sister Clemence at home he now has new and big responsibilities form which he was never trained. With Brother Peter, whose care he had been under for over ten years at the monastery, he arrives to take his rightful, position of the new Lord of Somerhill.He finds everything has changed, and he finds one of his tenants has been murdered. He will set out to find the killer but before he does many other things, will need his attention. The writing in this novel is buoyant, kind of airy and it sets itself up admirably against the darkness of the Middle Ages. A corrupt priest who plays on the superstition of the people, using the power and fear of the church to try to direct things his way. There are many revelations, some good people that are considered bad morally but prove a sharp contrast to those who are in a position that demands morality but are corrupt in many ways. Secrets are eventually revealed that will change the course of the story again and again. Though most is solved by book's end there is one tiny plot line that may just contain a cliffhanger that may indicate another book, possibly a series. I hope so, I really enjoyed this book, the characters and the time period.

  • Emma
    2019-04-23 17:13

    The field of medieval mystery-solving historical fiction is generally speaking bogged down with the mediocre. Obviously there are exceptions to this- CJ Sansom, Mel Starr, Susannah Gregory. And this story is the start of a new series that is definitely better than the average.Set just after the Black Death in 1350, landowners struggle to harvest their lands and gather rents from the severely reduced number of peasants. Oswald de Lacey, the youngest 18 year old son, is recalled from a life at a monastery to run his family estate as the only surviving male. There he is met with Death on his estate.I am no expert on medieval history but the author captures the superstitions of the time and I enjoyed the story. Most importantly I didn't guess the culprit until it was revealed.Recommended.

  • Tammy
    2019-04-08 18:09

    Overall, this was an enjoyable read, but it seemed rather incomplete. Some characters and situations could have been taken further or explained more fully. It is not as much about the plague as it is about a community in the aftermath of the disease. Contains vivid descriptions of life in the 14th century, which could be very brutal.

  • Carolyn
    2019-04-13 18:10

    Set in a small village of Kent in 1350. The Black Death has changed Europe forever, killing up to a third of the population, with no regard for class. Oswald deLacy, sent to a monastery at seven is sent home ten years later to become Lord of Somershill Manor after his father and both his older brothers were killed by the plague. He finds the estate badly run down with so many of his tennants dead and those left behind struggling to feed themselves. His mother and sister are no help but expect him to step into his father's shoes overnight and restore their wealth. On top of that a young girl is viciously murdered and her younger sister is missing. The village priest, a poorly educated man has filled the peasants heads with tales of dog headed men sent by Satan roaming the village and is demanding they spend their time praying rather than tending the estate. Young Oswald must therefore grow up fast to solve these mysteries and fight off his neighbour Lord Versey who has his eyes on both his sister and his lands.This was an enjoyable historical mystery, set in an interesting time and place. I felt it could have been darker and more atmospheric to make the mystery more chilling and threatening. The priest's rambling story of dog headed men being responsible for the murder never seemed very tangible or disturbing as there were never any signs or sightings to instil fear into the villagers. However, it was a good debut novel with plenty of intrigue and I look forward to reading the next book in this series based on Oswald and his family. 3.5★

  • Kate
    2019-04-25 15:14

    I cannot praise this novel enough. It combines a thoroughly enjoyable mystery with a fascinating and truly quite horrifying portrait of life in a small Kent village in the immediate aftermath of the devastating Black Death. I really enjoy Sykes' style. More, please!

  • Catherine
    2019-03-31 21:57

    I would not have picked this book up except that it was chosen as the book of the month of one of my good reads groups, Ancient & Medieval Historical Fiction. I am so glad I did!! The book is wonderful!The novel is set in medieval England just after the end of the plague. The young main character, Oswald de Lacy returns home after spending the years of the plague at a monastery for safety. He returns to find the manor has not been kept up and few people left to run the estate. He also finds there has been a murder. And then there is another...Oswald must find the people/person who committed these murders all the while trying to take on the mantle of lordship he is not prepared for. The peasants have become enamored of the local priest who is spewing religious nonsense and spreading stories about mythological monsters. And his mother and sister are holding tightly to family secrets. This makes for a wonderful context in which to create suspense and keep the reader highly engaged. The author knows her history. The setting and context and well-researched and the characters ring true. I picked up the book and had trouble putting it down. This is a book I would recommend to both mystery lovers and historical fictions lovers.

  • Annet
    2019-03-29 20:54

    A really great medieval story! Very entertaining, full of intrigue. New talented writer. A sequel to follow? Hopefully, enjoyed this one immensely! Recommended.

  • Jane
    2019-04-25 21:09

    Delightful medieval murder mystery. A younger son, Oswald de Lacy, returns to his family's estate from a monastery with his mentor-tutor after the death of his father and two older brothers to become the heir. Immediately he's faced with a mystery--murder of a young girl. Encouraged by Brother Peter, the mentor-tutor, he begins to investigate. A suspect is clapped into jail. There's another murder, the suspect is freed, and finally the suspicion points to Oswald. I guessed the perpetrator early on, but what intrigued me was the "whydunnit." Red herrings abound. Long-held secrets are revealed. The revelations seemed somewhat unbelievable to me, but considering the mores of the time....A fast-paced, well-written story, I couldn't put it down although I was dubious at first. I got a feeling for life in a Kentish village of that period with both nobles and peasants. I took as comic relief the incident with Earl Stephen at Oswald's trial, and some of the occurrences involving Oswald's sister and mother. The book began typically for a murder mystery, then became more and more original. Action became faster and faster until the ending was a bit rushed. Was that cover a Breughel? That was a happy addition--portrayal of a fantastical, plague-ridden world. Novel is highly recommended.

  • Jill
    2019-04-25 20:51

    This book, set in 1350, is the beginning of a new historical fiction mystery series. Oswald de Lacy, 18, had been working as a novice in the hospital of a remote Benedictine monastery under the guidance of his long-time mentor, Brother Peter. After the death of the Abbot from the Black Plague, Oswald returned home, bringing Brother Peter with him. Since Oswald’s father and two older brothers had also been taken by the plague, Oswald was now to be Lord of the Somershill estate, as well as the town Constable.Upon his return, Oswald is immediately beset upon by a host of problems: he has more than a thousand acres that need tending, revenues to be raised, and taxes to be collected, but a large proportion of the villagers died from the plague. Moreover, a disreputable local priest, John of Cornwall, comes to announce that a young girl has been found dead in the forest, and he is convinced it was at the hands of The Cynocephalus, an alleged dog-headed beast that did the work of the Devil. Cornwall is whipping up the local populace into a frenzy of fear (which conveniently results in their purchasing religious relics from Cornwall to protect them).Oswald doesn’t believe in any beast and Peter encourages him to find the actual murderer. Oswald tries to abjure superstition as well as religion, and claims to believe in “science.” [The Oxford English Dictionary records the first use of the word science as having occurred in 1350, and Oswald is very unlikely to have been familiar with it. If anything, he would have used the term “natural philosophy.”]In any event, Oswald, endlessly ordered about by his mother and older sister (in spite of the fact that women at that time had no power whatsoever), suspects one person after another, falls in InstaLove, almost gets killed several times, and finally “solves” the crime after almost getting hit on the head with the answer.Discussion: I had a number of problems with this book. First of all, there is the “historical” aspect of this book. I thought the author did an excellent job in portraying the different ways in which squalor, ill health, bad food, and vice characterized people’s lives at this time. But she was inconsistent. Women were sometimes utterly powerless, and at other times seemed right out of the 21st Century. Oswald in particular was not only an atheist (not unheard of at this time, certainly), but a believer in “science” which just wasn’t likely at that time, especially with respect to both religion and medicine. In addition, although he and Peter lived at a small obscure monastery, Peter was able to teach him geometry, in spite of Euclid having been available only at large universities. (There was, of course, no printing press until 1450, and no indication Peter had benefitted from a privileged education elsewhere.) Moreover, Oswald had, in his own family library, copies of both Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas and Roger Bacon’s Opus Minus. At that time, books were made at great expense by hand and only to be found in the possession of kings, universities, large churches, or large monasteries. My second problem was with the characterizations. Normally, I don’t like to compare writers, but this book, albeit set in the 14th Century, begs comparison with The Siege Winter by Arianna Franklin and Samantha Norman. In that story, you also have a medieval setting, an evil and abusive member of the clergy, a crime, political machinations, and an exploration of the administration of a medieval estate. Yet the history in that book is much more accurate, the pacing and tension more consistent, and the characters much more richly layered and memorable. One can also compare the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters, another historical mystery series that takes place in the 12th Century. Brother Cadfael, bright and resourceful, looks for natural solutions to illnesses and crimes in a much more century-appropriate manner. In this story, Oswald is wimpy and dumb, the women in his family are execrable, the local politics are tawdry and uninteresting, and there is really no one I would want to hang around with for more than one book.Evaluation: While some reviewers have lauded this book, I found it historically questionable in parts with not very compelling characters.Rating: 2.5/5

  • Martine Bailey
    2019-04-18 21:52

    From the captivating opening pages of this debut novel, we are plunged into the visceral world of Medieval England as it drags itself out of the agony of the Plague years. Fear and superstition threaten to overwhelm young Oswald de Lacy when he is reluctantly summoned home from the cerebral pleasures of a monastery to reluctantly take his place as Lord of Somsershill Manor. When a young woman is murdered, a religious fanatic leads the locals to abandon reason and believe in demons and dog-heads. Oswald - seeming younger than his eighteen years and endearingly hopeless in the face of mighty men - must reluctantly battle against ignorance armed only with his monastic education and natural sense of justice.S D Sykes creates a striking tale from this promising beginning, contrasting Oswald’s hesitancy with the crude certainties of his rustic villagers and brutality of the neighbouring lords. Then there is his family – a gullible hypochondriacal mother and a plausibly bitter sister who has outlived any decent suitors; in fact the black comedy of some passages evokes an especially wintery Cold Comfort Farm. What I particularly enjoyed was the depiction of England as a forested wilderness, full of secret places, caves, hide-outs – and of course horrific plague pits. There are plot twists aplenty and a nice surprise that leaves our hero able to make the most of the recent years of confusion. More than a rollicking yarn, Plague Land is a quest to rebuild identity in an apocalyptic world, a theme that makes this new medieval series one I will be sure to follow.

  • AdiTurbo
    2019-04-22 18:16

    A practically unputdownable thriller which takes place in the late Middle Ages (14th-15th century) and describes the social, political and religious issues of the period. Right after the spreading of the plague all over Britain, a young man from a noble family finds that he is the soul male survivor of his family, and therefore has to abandon the religious life and take on the responsibilities of a lord. He was never a true believer, but was also never groomed for ruling, and so struggles with his new commitments, with what in our days would be seen as an extremely dysfunctional family, rumors about his father and unfriendly neighbors. He is in the hold of two priests, an earl and his own mother, and finds it difficult to follow his own mind at first. The plot revolves around the murder of two young girls, sisters, daughters of a villager who died from the plague. Through the investigation of their murder, Oswald comes to his own and learns new things about the world he lives in and about himself. A good coming-of-age story as well as a successful historical mystery, which gives you a good sense of how horrible people had it back then and how lucky we are.

  • Louisa Treger
    2019-03-25 17:17

    Plague Land thrusts us into the heart of fourteenth century rural England. Oswald de Lacy is forced to leave his secluded life in a monastery when he inherits his family estate because his father and brothers have died from the plague. He struggles with his new responsibilities, and a community decimated both physically and morally by the terrible disease. When the mutilated body of a young girl is discovered, Oswald is forced into the role of unwilling detective. This is a well-written, well-paced historical crime novel, with enough plot twists to keep me wanting more. The characters are brilliantly drawn – I particularly enjoyed Oswald’s transition from scared uncertain boy to decisive leader. It’s full of fascinating period detail, yet the characters and the situations they find themselves in are recognisable, believable, and easy to relate to. Scary parallels with the current Ebola outbreak make it especially resonant. A fantastic and satisfying read - highly recommended!

  • Beth
    2019-04-25 18:17

    The mystery parts did get interesting at the end, but the middle sections of the book in particular were so tropy. I did not enjoy the main character, and many of the minor characters seemed to be written solely in a way to justify his dislike of them. There's just a little bit too much contempt floating around, and I didn't find the disaffected annoyance that interesting as a character concept. Also the elements of religious abuse and violence against women seemed to just be there for the sake of it, rather than for thematic exploration or out of necessity.

  • DeB MaRtEnS
    2019-04-12 20:14

    Had a great deal going for it: realistic and true to the times setting, great backstory supporting the Medieval politics and superstition, the fief system and the place of the church. The character development suffered a bit, I think, due to the author's attempts to educate her readers while plotting her story. Quite slow moving, though overall interesting. I might try her next one to see if she picks things up a bit.

  • Victoria Goldman
    2019-04-05 20:54

    Plague Land kept me hooked from the first page. It's a very well-written historical crime novel, set just after The Black Death.Oswald has been living at a monastery for 10 years since the age of seven. But following the death of his father and older brothers, he unexpectedly becomes Lord of Somerhill Manor. Returning home, he struggles with his new role in life, as local politics and family matters weigh heavy on his young shoulders. Then a murder on his estate leads him to the darker side of Somerhill Manor. With a local priest spreading rumours of witchcraft and supernatural beings, he realises that it's up to him to find the killer before they strike again.Many novels set in this time period use modern-day language or try to use old English, which makes it difficult to follow the story. However, the narration in Plague Land made the characters very believable and true to the 14th century, whilst being very readable. The vivid descriptions enabled me to picture the scenes in my mind and I warmed to the characters easily. The plot flowed smoothly, with plenty of twists and turns to keep me guessing.Plague Land is ideal for fans of CJ Sansom. I hope there's another one in the pipeline.I received a copy of the book through Lovereading's Reviewer Panel ( in exchange for an honest review.

  • J.R.
    2019-04-22 18:19

    The Black Death has taken his father and elder brothers and, suddenly, 18-year-old Oswald de Lacey, destined previously for the priesthood, finds himself lord of the manor, a job he feels himself woefully unprepared to handle.Worse, the murder of a young girl on the estate adds to his chagrin and forces him to deal with the superstition of his peasant charges and their goading on by John of Cornwall, a devious village priest who claims the murder was committed by demonic dog-headed men.With the local constable also dead, Oswald is obliged to investigate the murder. Adding to his difficulties in attending to his various duties is a bossy mother and a snotty older sister.Oswald's only ally is Brother Peter, a monk and his mentor, who has accompanied him home from the monastery. Unfortunately, Peter's fondness for strong drink limits his helpfulness and Oswald is left to his own devices for most of the novel.Oswald's youth and clumsiness add a note of humor to what might otherwise be a grim tale. His innocence leads to a lot of plodding and suspicion of various characters. All of this contributes to making him a likable and realistic protagonist.I found the characters, the setting and the plot twists very engaging and look forward to the next in this series.

  • Joey Woolfardis
    2019-03-25 23:05

    [Thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for my copy.]Oswald de Lacy has spent his childhood in a monastery but at the age of seventeen he is sent back home to be Lord of Somerhill Manor after the plague wipes out his father and two brothers. Waiting for him at home are his mother who insists incessantly that he marry as quick as possible, his sister who insists incessantly that she herself marry a very unsuitable man and the death of a young woman named Alison Starvecrow who, before she was seen last, was known to have wanted to speak to Oswald. But the local priest is insisting it is the work of a dog-head: a man with the head of a beast doing the work of the devil. Oswald does not believe that story: but how can he convince the locals and find the true murderer?This book had some promise. I found little to criticise in the writing: it was quite concise at times and there were only a few minor mistakes. It just was not very engaging which, coupled with the weak plot and paper-thin characters, made it quite the slog.The characters were, for all intents and purposes, only there to be there. Every single character was unlikeable and seemed either there to simply antagonise the main character Oswald, or as filler. Oswald himself was the most developed character, but even then he was undeveloped and he certainly didn't develop in any way as the novel went along, nor did any other characters.There was an attempt to create strong female characters (such as the sister) to counteract the misogynist stereotypes but they were feeble at best. I also found the way the characters (especially Oswald) just knew things (like how long a body has been dead for by examining certain things) just a little too fishy and handled in a blasé manner. I have no idea if they could tell how long a person has been dead for in the mediaeval period but the way it was dealt with here felt unrealistic and inaccurate. I'd be happy to be corrected on this matter.The plot was intriguing at first: a girl is found dead after wanting to speak with Oswald but no-one else seems to think it is anything but the work of the devil. It was infuriating the way the simpletons of the town went along with everything the priest said; whilst this may be accurate I don't think it was handled well. The story just drags: I quite enjoyed the mystery though I figured it out very early on and the ending was quick to come, but at the very end it was whole-heartedly confusing.It wasn't particularly written badly, nor was the plot all that bad. It was mainly the characters that let it down the most. Though what I will say is that the world-building was intense and very satisfying. There is a map provided but you might as well disregard that as the description and location within the book itself is fantastic. I felt very much like I was within mediaeval times, though atmosphere was lacking and it felt mostly like I was in the countryside.It's a relatively good book but it just didn't grab me at all and I was very happen to finish it. I wish I knew more about mediaeval England to evaluate the historical accuracies because honestly that's one of the areas where I felt most sceptical.Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest | Shop | Etsy

  • Elizabeth Moffat
    2019-03-30 14:57

    Three and a half stars from me! First of all, many thanks Love Reading UK and Hodder & Stoughton for giving me the opportunity to read this intriguing debut novel in exchange for an honest review. S D Sykes delves into the realm of medieval fiction and takes the reader back to the 14th Century, where the bubonic plague or “Black Death” had swept England with horrific consequences leaving many dead – in some accounts, up to one third of Europe’s entire population. Oswald de Lacy is preparing to take holy orders but when the plague strikes, claiming his father and brothers as its victims, Oswald is sent back to his home very reluctantly to take his position as Lord of Somerhill Manor.Oswald was never prepared to be Lord – after all, he had two older brothers, but at the tender age of seventeen must take command as trouble is brewing and his people are looking to him for decisions, leadership and comfort. A young girl has been brutally murdered and the local priest, Cornwall, who has a lot of sway over the local villagers is insisting that she has been killed by demons with the heads of dogs. Oswald is a sensible man and does not believe in the existence of such creatures but understands the superstitious worries of the peasants and is determined to solve the mystery and ease the fears of his people. When a second girl’s body is found, Oswald realises he has become part of a dark and grisly puzzle that he must get to the bottom of. Yet is he fully prepared for what he may unearth?S D Sykes writes a compelling piece of historical fiction that takes the reader back to a different time where you can experience the 14th Century in all its unadulterated glory. It is obvious how much research the author has carried out to convey this period of time so distinctly and I loved being part of Oswald’s journey as he tried to solve the mystery. I have to admit, I wasn’t sure about his character at first as he appeared a bit too reluctant to assume his position but he acts just as a seventeen year old apprentice monk would do if his whole world was turned upside down, I suppose! The author also writes some fantastic “love to hate” characters such as Oswald’s mother and sister, whom I just wanted to shake at times and the intriguing and pompous priest Cornwall. Many characters are not what they seem and the ending reveals a wealth of secrets that I certainly wasn’t expecting. As a debut novel and a work of historical/medieval fiction this is a fascinating read that I think fans of Karen Maitland will enjoy and I look forward to seeing what this author does next.For my full review please see my blog at

  • Janet Emson
    2019-03-31 17:54

    I received a copy of this book from the publishers and this is my honest review.Oswald de Lacy finds himself uprooted from the monastery he has lived in for most of his life when he is called back to govern the family estate after the Plague has killed his father and two brothers. At 18 he is inexperienced in the ways of running a manor and lands and struggles with his new responsibilities. Things aren’t helped with his mother and sister interfering. Luckily he takes with him his ally from the monastery, Brother Peter, to support him in his new endeavor.Mistrust is rife and workers for the estate are fewer now that the Plague has done its worst. The fear of the disease still hangs in the air and strangers are regarded with fear.Soon after Oswald returns the body of a local girl is found. The local priest soon claims it was the work of dog-headed men, fuelled to do so by some unknown agenda. However in the minds of the locals, the fear and mistrust manifests itself in the believe in witchcraft and demons and many are more inclined to believe the priest, than Oswald’s assertions that a mortal was the real culprit. Oswald sets out to find the real murderer, finding another body and more about himself on the way.I love a good historical crime novel, being a great fan of Ariana Franklin and CJ Sansom so I was looking forward to reading this when I heard about it.The characters are well drawn. Oswald starts out naive and inexperienced and this shows through his investigation. Mistakes are made and these have devastating consequences. However we see Oswald mature and develop into a strong character. His mother is somewhat of a harridan and pain to say the least but she too has surprises under the surface. As for Clemence, Oswald’s sister, she is depicted as a quite horrible person. The relationship between her and Oswald is somewhat strained. However as the story develops so does the back story of these characters.The mystery is engaging and again, although I got who the murderer was before the reveal, it carried me along for quite some time before the penny dropped.I also loved the time period of the novel. I found the whole subject of the Plague and the feudal system fascinating. It’s a period of history I wasn’t familiar with but one I’d love to investigate further.This book fills the gap between the late Ariana Franklin and CJ Sansom and I look forward to reading more of the adventures of Oswald and company.

  • Tessa Arlen
    2019-04-02 21:55

    I raced through this book in two days – neglecting little things like laundry and the washing up to read just one more page!Eighteen year old Oswald de Lacy a novitiate at a monastery is recalled to his family manor after his father and two older brothers died of the Pestilence. His only surviving family is his maddeningly impractical mother and his unhappy spinster sister. In an England decimated by the plague, unworldly Oswald has to manage his tenants and serfs: brilliantly portrayed as a belligerent, superstitious and malleable bunch easily swayed by the local priest John of Cornwall whose main interest is extortion before God. Luckily, he is accompanied by a Brother from the Benedictine house, a gifted infirmarer with a love of the bottle who does everything he can to help Oswald in his new role of lord of the manor. As Oswald bravely shoulders his dead father’s responsibilities he is beset with every possible threat not only to the lands he holds, the well-being of the villagers and his family, but also in investigating a horrifying murder that occurs with days of his arrival. S.D. Sykes takes us back to the dark, isolated world of 14th century England. Superstition and fear; rapacious priests; disease and death; feudalism and shifting loyalties make up the world of Plague Land. The author’s diligent research captures the bleak days following the greatest plague in European history, and her plot is as complex and mysterious as the time it is set in. It is not all grim reading, however, there some delightful descriptions of the Kentish Weald: herbs, meadows, forests and wild flowers abound.

  • Mark
    2019-04-25 17:54

    Oswald de Lacy is a callow, uncertain lord of Somerhill Manor in 14th century Kent when he discovers the first body, murdered and buried in the forest.Bodies are nothing new for him or anyone else, for this is the season of the Black Plague, and only because of it is the former monk-in-training now a lord, since the pestilence killed his older brothers and nearly killed him. From the beginning, Oswald wants to solve the murder of the young woman, Alison Starvecrow, and he is immediately thwarted by a greedy, unscrupulous priest, who claims a devilish beast with the head of a dog and body of a human is the culprit. Soon, there is a second body -- Alison's mentally ill sister Matilda -- and eventually there will be more. Along the way, Oswald de Lacy will indeed solve the crimes, but at a great risk to his own sense of who he is and what his real history is.As the struggles toward the truth, Oswald must contend with his peevish sister Clemence, his vain and crude mother, his alcoholic but astute mentor, Brother Peter, a neighboring lord intent on stealing his land, peasants who are depleted in ranks by the plague and none too sure they want to work for him, and a strange boy he meets in the forest.It all coalesces into a strong first novel (even with some amateurish writing touches), and I'm already eager to seek out Sykes' new sequel, "The Butcher Bird."

  • Michelle
    2019-04-20 18:11

    Tired of modern life, I have resolved to read more novels set in Olden Days of Long Ago Times. This one turned out to be a bit misleading - the plague link is somewhat tenuous as it's set in a time of Long Ago when the plague had pretty much died out. So my hopes of reading about grisly deaths were dashed (I hate it when that happens). The book itself is all over the place - it doesn't know whether it wants to be a 'whodunnit', a love story - at the end it seemed to be aiming for a medieval Eastenders feel. And it's the first of a series (YAWN) so of course does not have a 'proper' ending. Not bubonic enough for moi.

  • John
    2019-04-15 17:18

    ‘They will not find you. Nobody will hunt you. I will keep your secret.’Plague Land is a wonderful medieval-set mystery in Kent, England, in 1350. Both manor and village are recovering from the Great Mortality (Black Plague), but the world has been turned upside down. This is a great book filled with lurid sensory depictions — the smells, sights, textures, and tastes described by very colorful characters. Plague Land features many storylines, but the prologue and epilogue both took my breath away as they contain the keys to the truly much larger secret of the tale.

  • Cherie
    2019-04-12 20:09

    Well, there's a rarity -me giving a book 5 stars. This just hit all the right notes: the setting, the characters, the plot, were all perfectly filled out and completely engaging. I hated putting the book down each night, but consoled myself with the thought I would immediately go out and order the rest of the author's books when I finished this one. Turns out she only has one other book, a follow-up to this one.

  • Amanda
    2019-04-09 18:12

    A light and easy read. I consider it more a murder mystery that takes place in a historical setting than historical fiction as there is no link to historical figures or events besides the fact that it takes place after the plague in the 14th century. Maybe not a full 4 stars, but considering I finished the book in record time because it kept me engaged it's worth rounding up!

  • catzkc
    2019-04-03 19:53

    This pushes all my buttons - medieval, murder, plague - I expected to thoroughly enjoy this! But 37 pages in I'm already weary of the stereotypes. I've got too many other books vying for my attention right now. Maybe sometime later I might pick it up and give it another try.

  • Pamela
    2019-04-12 15:50

    It's 1350 and the Black Death has passed through England leaving behind devastation and loss on an unbelievable scale. The survivors are trying to rebuild changed lives among the ruins of their towns and villages. At Somershill Manor in Kent, the plague has brought Oswald de Lacy out of his novitiate at a nearby monastery and made him the Lord of Somershill on the death of his father and both of his brothers. Being a Lord is different than it was just a few years ago. Now, serfs feel free to bargain for higher wages; they are not so easily controlled or in awe of authority, and Oswald has never been trained to be a Lord, anyway. Even the parish priest has changed. He has taken to selling saints' bones that look suspiciously like dog bones and has begun to undermine Oswald with his serfs. When the murder of a young girl is discovered, the priest manages to convince the village that a dog-headed beast is responsible. As Oswald tries to investigate, he is met with more and more misfortune and secrets tumble out that lead to trouble. Eventually, Oswald finds his own life in danger and fears that he will be killed before he can ever learn to be Lord of Somershill. If you like medieval mysteries, this is a good one.

  • Elizabeth Kral
    2019-04-22 16:12

    Sykes is an excellent writer and compelling story teller. I couldn't put the book down and found myself reading during the commercial breaks on my favorite tv shows.When I finished, my first thought was to give this book five stars for exquisite plotting and its creative twists and turns. However, I deducted a star because too many characters were involved. And upon more reflection, I deducted a second star because, while the ending chapters seemed to fit the buildup, there were too many surprises and they came too fast. While reasonable, the characters affected accepted them very logically (without much trauma. Maybe more introspection from the characters as they soaked in these revelations one at a time would have pleased me more. The epilogue was so excellent a cliff hangar, that I wanted to rush to get the follow-on book.

  • Libbey
    2019-04-10 14:51

    Started out kind of light, but gradually became darker. It does take place during a dark time tho so I shouldn't have been surprised by this. Still it was a good mystery with good characters and a fast pace.