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The Weight of Chains Paperback – September 20, 2015
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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About the Author
A writer/editor, managing editor of Apex Magazine, and a Girl Scout leader. When she isn’t handling her editorial or Girl Scout leader responsibilities, she’s researching fascinating historical figures, rare demons, and new ways to dispose of bodies, interweaving the three into strange and horrifying tales. Her short fiction can be found in Mountain Dead, Dark Tales of Terror, A Hacked-Up Holiday Massacre, as well as other places. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters, and is currently working on a new novel. To find out all her secrets, you can follow her on Twitter at @LesleyConner.
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Top customer reviews
Set in 15th century France, this historical-horror novel contains two fast-pace plot threads that combine for a satisfying and horrific conclusion. We’re introduced to Jeanetta, a hardworking eleven-year-old girl who has moved to the village of Machecoul with her family. In true peasant fashion, they’re poor and the family is always on the brink of starvation. To ease the burden on her family, Jeanetta is promised to a kindly, widowed smallpox survivor.
Gilles de Rais, the lord of Machecoul, is on a constant search for young boys… preferably fair-haired and no more than eight years old. The guy is a nasty piece of work who’s heinous crimes are documented facts. Unfortunately, de Rais is surrounded by a group of enablers, in particular, his guard, the sadistic Poitou.
As the novel progresses, Gilles de Rais’s appetites become more demanding. He enlists the help of a wizard named Prelati to summon the demon Barron with the hopes of trading blood for gold. Poitou’s search for victims becomes more aggressive as more and more boys are sent off to be a court Page in Paris by their master. It is when Poitou brings Jeanetta and her eight-year-old brother to Gilles de Rais’s castle that our two plots collide and we’re given a page-turning and somewhat unexpected conclusion.
The author has a knack for writing despicable characters: Gilles de Rais, Poitou, and Prelati all felt three dimensional and are memorable. Our young heroine, Jeanetta, comes across as a realistic eleven-year-old in an old soul’s body.
Be warned, there are buckets of gore and plenty of chilling scenes that will set off a whole set of trigger warnings. If you check out the Wikipedia page I linked earlier, you’ll understand why.
Parents with young children might wish to stay away from this one. I have a fair-haired eight-year-old son (Gilles de Rais’s favorite type) and the book made me uncomfortable at times for obvious reasons.
If you’re looking for a great Halloween read, then The Weight of Chains is worthy of your attention.
One last though: the final chapter is one of the best I’ve read in a horror novel.
While de Rais is a character, and occasionally the viewpoint character, Conner also focuses on the trials and travails of the various collaborators in his court (a cook who assures herself she just cleans up the messes but has nothing to do with them, a magician who acts as though he has been forced into participating in the depravity, and a guard who delights sadistically in procuring children for his master to murder) as well as a (presumably) fictional young peasant girl named Jeanetta.
I'm not very knowledgeable about the Middle Ages, so I'm not sure if all of the descriptions of day-to-day life are accurate, but it certainly felt authentic to me as a layman. Authentic and fascinating to step into a world where people just thought very differently. Spousal abuse was considered par for the course. Lords could buy and sell people like livestock. Child labor was not only not frowned upon, it was the norm, and the children themselves were desperate to contribute as much as possible to their families. THE WEIGHT OF CHAINS felt to me (again, I'm not very knowledgeable on the subject) like an accurate portrait of medieval life.
But it's also much more than that. It's a grisly horror story that will genuinely turn your stomach. What starts out as a serial killer story in a rather unusual setting slowly develops into a rumination on shared guilt, then a story of demonic magic, and finally, one of the most petrifying zombie stories I've ever scene. I don't want to say much more so I don't spoil it, especially as I definitely was not expecting the zombie development and it was delightful.
I was never not once not ever bored reading THE WEIGHT OF CHAINS, not even when it focused on characters pulling carrots in the garden or accidentally spilling a bowl of soup. All of the stakes - from a lost carrot to a lost fortune - were appropriate to the characters involved. The story never failed to be engrossing, and by the end it was thoroughly gross. A must-read for any fans of the Middle Ages, serial killers, demons, or zombies.
Most recent customer reviews
I can sum up author Lesley Conner’s debut book THE WEIGHT OF CHAINS in two words: viscerally...Read more
The Weight of Chains
Sinister Grin Press
Author: Lesley Conner
Synopsis: Gilles de Rais has control over every...Read more