Review: A Burnable Book

Knowledge is currency.

It can be traded and it can be banked, and more secretly than money.

A Burnable BookLondon, 1385:

A book and a cloth prophesy regicide.

Two aspiring poets hide their own a dark secrets.

Two ambitious men plot revenge.

Two fallen women desire a better life.

This is the scene and these are the principal characters of Bruce Holsinger’s A Burnable Book. A book of heretical verse prophesying the death of Richard II circulates through London. When the only known copy goes missing, it’s up to John Gower – enlisted by his friend Geoffrey Chaucer – to track it down and stop the assassination.


Distraction, deception, subterfuge, mendacity, all those unspoken tools of the subtler crafts: government and trade, diplomacy and finance.

As far is intrigues go, I found A Burnable Book relatively easy. It is quite obvious that Chaucer is the author of De Mortibus, that Gower’s son Simon is in it up to his ears, and the identity of the so-called “mystery girl” is evident early on as well. History tells us that Richard II wasn’t assassinated in 1385, so we know the plot will fail. (I really shouldn’t have to give a spoiler alert for something over 600 years old, you know . . .) However, this did not stop me from enjoying the book and seeing how the characters would figure it out. For me, the only real plot twists were (a) just who was responsible for Simon’s involvement in the plot and (b) just how much Chaucer “knew” beforehand.

As a work of fiction, I found A Burnable Book to be about as satisfying as a bag of chips: It filled time but had little actual value. Adam Scarlett really turned me off. A relatively minor character, his rather violent end was not really necessary to the plot. Furthermore, coming as it did in the final ten pages of the book, it somewhat ruined the denouement of the overall storyline. I understand the motives behind his death; I simply think it should have come at a different point (preferably not at all).

I borrowed this book from my local library; otherwise, I would have felt robbed. I definitely wouldn’t pay $26 for the hardback edition, and even $8 for a paperback may be a bit much.

My overall rating:

2.5 stars


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