Ace, King, Knave (2013): Maria McCann


This is Maria McCann’s third novel and it has large shoes to fill: her debut, As Meat Loves Salt, set during the English Civil War, is one of the most compelling pieces of historical fiction I’ve read (with one of the most conflicted, unsettling antiheroes). Her second book, The Wilding, was set at a similar period and, for me, wasn’t nearly as powerful; but Ace, King, Knave is a return to form. Moving away from the male narrators and the 17th-century setting of the first two novels, McCann draws us into the roistering world of 18th-century London, and the experiences of two very different women.

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As Meat Loves Salt (2001): Maria McCann


A new edition of As Meat Loves Salt has just been published in paperback.  The cover, aimed at the burgeoning understated-historical-romance market, shows a close-up of a woman’s torso, her hands in her lap. This amuses me, because although there are certainly women in the book, this cover completely fails to convey any of the story’s spirit or major themes. It would be like putting a fin-de-siècle lady with a parasol on the cover of Death in Venice. I much prefer the cover of my edition, which I’ve used to illustrate this post. Here is darkness, brooding, and a fragment of a young man’s face looming out of the shadow.

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