Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Review - The Crowfield Curse

The Eulogy (From the Publishers):
It's 1347 and fifteen-year-old Will, an orphan boy, lives at Crowfield Abbey. Sent into the forest to gather wood, he rescues instead, a creature from a trap - a hob, who shares with Will a terrible secret. Somewhere in the forest behind the abbey where he lives, is a grave. And buried deep in the snow is an angel. But how can an angel die? What has it to do with the monks of the Abbey? When two hooded strangers arrive at Crowfield asking questions about the angel's grave. Will is drawn into a world of dangerous Old Magic. "The Crowfield Feather" was short-listed for the "Times" Chidren's Fiction Competition in 2008. This is a stunning debut novel and the first of a two part series.

The Epitaph (In a Nutshell): Less about flashy action scenes than chilling atmosphere, this is a wonderfully contemplative book with some truly fascinating concepts.

Dearly Departed,
We are gathered here today to discuss The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh. What a wonderfully atmospheric book this is! I know it seems like a strange point to latch onto first, but the weather in The Crowfield Curse is almost a character in itself - the constant cold that seeps through everything is the perfect recurring theme for this chilling and at times slightly claustrophobic book. The pace is slow and contemplative, which fits the narrative perfectly: the journey does not begin with explosions and a hurried race away from the forces of darkness, but instead starts with the discovery of an otherworldly creature who has little to do with the main conflict other than to provide his charming companionship. I really loved the organic way the plot unfolded which felt perfectly in tune with the life of a boy growing up in an abbey in the middle of nowhere, and I particularly enjoyed the little flourishes of Will's life in the abbey - the less than appetising pottages prepared by the cook, his trips into the forest to feed the pigs, the respite from the cold in the warming room.

That's not to say this book is without some hair-raising scenes, and indeed, I feel like the horror elements in it are heightened by the quieter scenes, because this has some of the most genuinely creepy concepts I've ever encountered. Without giving too much away, I really enjoyed the distinctive take on a very familiar mythical creature. It reminded me a lot of the beautifully grotesque spirits in the Miyazaki film Princess Mononoke. The menacing fae creatures were wonderfully threatening without ever being overtly so. All in all, The Crowfield Curse is one of the best examples of quiet horror I've ever seen of where less is definitely more.

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