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Publisher's Summary

The author of the acclaimed medieval mystery A Burnable Book once again brings 14th-century London alive in all its color and detail in this riveting thriller featuring medieval poet and fixer John Gower - a twisty tale rife with intrigue, danger, mystery, and murder.
Though he is one of England's most acclaimed intellectuals, John Gower is no stranger to London's wretched slums and dark corners, and he knows how to trade on the secrets of the kingdom's most powerful men. When the bodies of 16 unknown men are found in a privy, the sheriff of London seeks Gower's help. The men's wounds - ragged holes created by an unknown object - are unlike anything the sheriff's men have ever seen. Tossed into the sewer, the bodies were meant to be found. Gower believes the men may have been used in an experiment - a test for a fearsome new war weapon his informants call the "handgonne", claiming it will be the "future of death" if its design can be perfected.
Propelled by questions of his own, Gower turns to courtier and civil servant Geoffrey Chaucer, who is working on some poems about pilgrims that Gower finds rather vulgar. Chaucer thinks he just may know who commissioned this new weapon, an extremely valuable piece of information that some will pay a high price for - and others will kill to conceal....
©2015 Bruce Holsinger (P)2015 HarperCollins Publishers
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Lovisa on 05-14-15


What an enjoyably erudite and entertaining piece of historical fiction! Like Holsinger's last book, A Burnable Book, this is a compelling tale involving Chaucer, Gower, treason and treachery. This time, he does an even better job of combining poetry with plot and I also loved how he seamlessly wove developments in medieval technology into his story. Handguns, yes, but the spectacles nearly made me cry. I was sorry for it to end, and I hope the author is already brewing us up another tale.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By elizabeth on 04-09-16

Chaucer's England reimagined

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

If the reader is familiar with English history, geography, and medieval literature, its a good read. If you are not fascinated with the period, its a slow slog.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

After many chapters,many hours, it was a relief to have it be over.

What aspect of Simon Vance’s performance would you have changed?

Too melodramatic.

Was The Invention of Fire worth the listening time?

not for me

Any additional comments?

Bruce Holsinger is a dedicated professor, and a sincerely hard working academic This is a hard working author, deserves credit for his tremendous work.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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