Cormac McCarthy's The Road meets Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in this frightful medieval epic about an orphan girl with visionary powers in plague-devastated France.
The year is 1348. The conflict between France and England is nothing compared to the all-out war building between good angels and fallen ones for control of heaven (though a scene in which soldiers are massacred by a rainbow of arrows is pretty horrific). Among mortals, only the girl, Delphine, knows of the cataclysm to come. Angels speak to her, issuing warnings—and a command to run. A pack of thieves is about to carry her off and rape her when she is saved by a disgraced knight, Thomas, with whom she teams on a march across the parched landscape. Survivors desperate for food have made donkey a delicacy and don't mind eating human flesh. The few healthy people left lock themselves in, not wanting to risk contact with strangers, no matter how dire the strangers' needs. To venture out at night is suicidal: Horrific forces swirl about, ravaging living forms. Lethal black clouds, tentacled water creatures and assorted monsters are comfortable in the daylight hours as well. The knight and a third fellow journeyer, a priest, have difficulty believing Delphine's visions are real, but with oblivion lurking in every shadow, they don't have any choice but to trust her. The question becomes, can she trust herself? Buehlman, who drew upon his love of Fitzgerald and Hemingway in his acclaimed Southern horror novel, Those Across the River (2011), slips effortlessly into a different kind of literary sensibility, one that doesn't scrimp on earthy humor and lyrical writing in the face of unspeakable horrors. The power of suggestion is the author's strong suit, along with first-rate storytelling talent.
An author to watch, Buehlman is now two for two in delivering eerie, offbeat novels with admirable literary skill.