By SD Sykes
Published by Hodder & Stoughton (8 October 2015)
Oswald de Lacy is growing up fast in his new position as Lord of Somershill Manor. The Black Death changed many things, and just as it took away his father and elder brothers, leaving Oswald to be recalled from the monastery where he expected to spend his life, so it has taken many of his villagers and servants. However, there is still the same amount of work to be done in the farms and fields, and the few people left to do it think they should be paid more - something the King himself has forbidden.
Just as anger begins to spread, the story of the Butcher Bird takes flight. People claim to have witnessed a huge creature in the skies. A new-born baby is found impaled on a thorn bush. And then more children disappear.
Convinced the bird is just a superstitious rumour, Oswald must discover what is really happening. He can expect no help from his snobbish mother and his scheming sister Clemence, who is determined to protect her own child, but happy to neglect her step-daughters.
From the plague-ruined villages of Kent to the thief-infested streets of London and the luxurious bedchamber of a bewitching lady, Oswald's journey is full of danger, dark intrigue and shocking revelations.
The Butcher Bird is the second book in the Plague Land series. I loved the first book, and am delighted to say that The Butcher Bird is even better. You could read The Butcher Bird as a standalone, but it's definitely worth reading Plague Land first.
In The Butcher Bird, we return to Oswald de Lacy, who is Lord of Somershill Manor. When a dead baby is found impaled on a thorn bush, the locals are convinced that this is the work of the terrifying butcher bird. But Oswald dismisses this as superstitious rumours and is determined to discover who is really behind the child's death.
The Butcher Bird is set not long after The Black Death. The writing feels very authentic with its vivid descriptions of people and places. You feel like you've been transported back to that time period. The book is written so well that the facts are woven beautifully into the dialogue and narrative. You're not bogged down with lots of heavy passages (which you can find in other historical novels).
The Butcher Bird is gruesome in places, but it also made me laugh. I love the interaction between the characters, particularly Oswald and his family. Oswald has a great sense of humour and also a sense of honour. He is determined to do the right thing and keep everyone happy.
Plague Land and The Butcher Bird remind me of Lindsey Davis' Falco series, which is set in ancient Rome. Both series of novels are based on fact, written with humour and are fun to read with a brilliant loveable protagonist.
I hope there will be another Oswald de Lacy book coming soon.
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.