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The Book of the Crowman by Joseph D'Lacey

The Book of the Crowman - Black Dawn 2

This is how I feel about The Book of the Crowman:
But I’ll try to be more coherent…

The Book of the Crowman concludes The Black Dawn story begun in Black Feathers. If you haven't yet read Black Feathers I urge you to stop reading this and get your hands on a copy right away. It's a beautiful, disturbing dystopian paean to the earth and one of my favourite books of 2013 (my review can be found here). The Book of the Crowman picks up the story and follows Gordon and Megan as they move relentlessly towards their destinies.

In a life surrounded by violence Gordon Black has become more than himself. Armed with only his father's penknife he moves as one with the landscape delivering death to the hated Wardsmen. He is attuned to the world, at one with it, moving 'like a ripple on dark water.' He feels the surge of the healing Black Light now too. His power is awesome but with it comes responsibility, pain and difficult ethical choices. Driving him is the knowledge that he alone must find the Crowman before the world ends.

Megan too is growing in strength and power. She is actually my favourite character in this book; her spirit shines out. As she treads her own path in the Weave the bond between her and Gordon deepens. They have this amazing love story that transcends time and physical space, but exists just as surely. Megan merges with the land and nature, becoming a 'human wild-thing' like Gordon. For him, 'she was a true woman of the land, the human female to his human male.' The utter rightness of their connection is beyond beautiful and my heart is aching a little as I think about it now.

Another relationship provokes some rather different feelings. The two Wardsmen most determined to destroy Gordon, Pike and Skelton, are united in their loathing and fear of the Crowman, and their sadism. Their closeness would be a union of monsters but for the tiny chink of light in Skelton's armour - he craves, needs, love. It's enough to allow for the faintest flicker of hope that redemption is still possible.

Relationships are much more important in this book than in Black Feathers. In part, I think, this reflects the coming of age of Gordon and Megan, but they also provide points of strength and vulnerability. D'Lacey writes about these locations of duality so well. The Crowman is less trickster this time around but he is still darkness and light, beginnings and endings. Gordon carefully buries his dead aware that the dead nourish the earth allowing for new life. Nothing (or everything) is wasted (except life itself). Destroy to create.

The line between myth and reality is continually challenged creating stories within stories. The tales both shape and are shaped by us, we live with and by them. D’Lacey's stories access terror and beauty, combining to produce something exquisite. It’s poetry and it’s in my soul.

The Book of the Crowman is published by Angry Robot on 6 March in paperback and eBook. I read it via NetGalley thanks to the publisher.


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