I can sum up author Lesley Conner’s debut book THE WEIGHT OF CHAINS in two words: viscerally excellent. There are many other words that come to mind as well: brutal, clever, and engaging, just to name a few. But the first two are a good overall description for this tale. THE WEIGHT OF CHAINS is a story that is difficult to read in some parts, due to the subject matter, but even harder to put down. If you like horrifying historical fiction, this is a book you’ll want to check out immediately.
If you are not familiar with THE WEIGHT OF CHAINS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Sinister Grin Press:
Gilles de Rais has control over every aspect of his life: the servants he employs, the village he lords over, the carefully crafted visage he shows to the world. He dictates where his subjects live, what they eat, if they live or die. He has ultimate power and wields it with a flourish to conceal the dark desires that lurk behind his smile and the despair within his castle in Machecoul. When a wizard tasked with raising a demon loses control of the beast, Gilles’s tight grasp on his world begins to slip. His cook plans to flee, taking her son away from the dangers of the castle. His guard wants to claim Gilles’s lifestyle as his own. His wizard frantically searches for a way to survive both his lord and the demon he has called into the world. And the villagers – like Jeanetta and her family –move through life in Machecoul too consumed with the task of surviving day to day, and oblivious to the turmoil building within the castle that is threatening to break out and consume them all.
I can say without a doubt that Lesley Conner is an author to watch out for. I enjoyed this debut greatly, and I will definitely be checking out her future works.
THE WEIGHT OF CHAINS is written well and, although it is lengthy (measuring in at 430 pages), the story moves at a decent clip. Conner spends quite a bit of time putting down a solid framework on which to build the story, however this is not a negative at all. In fact, the in depth tapestry she weaves makes the story even more so immersive.
The characters are interesting and likable (everybody, that is, except for de Rais and his lackey, Poitou). They are fleshed out well enough so the reader is invested in each, therefore when the horrific events start to happen, the reader actually feels something for them.
The story and the events that occur within it are enthralling. I had never heard of Gilles de Rais prior to reading this book, however I am now doing a bit of back-study on him. The book paints a vivid (and terrifying) picture of who he probably was, and the combines that with an inventive storyline. The result is an excellent read that both horror fans and followers of historical fiction will want to delve into.
THE WEIGHT OF CHAINS is a big win for me, and I highly recommend it. Sinister Grin Press has a winner here, and I cannot wait to see what Conner does next. Check this one out today; it is available in a variety of formats.