Genre: Historical Fantasy
Target Audience: 10+
Summary from Waterstones.com:
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 Crowfield Curse is the story of William who sadly loses his family in a mysterious fire. He is the only survivor and is taken in by the monks of Crowfield Abbey to serve them in return for a place to stay. William's life at the abbey is a hard one and the author detailed the brutal living conditions in fourteenth century with a beautiful accuracy. I had expected the monks to treat William with fatherly care and stern guidance but it is only Brother Snail who provides William with any affection. The remaining monks enjoy the harsh way of life they have chosen to live and do not think of William as anything other than a nuisance and a servant. Poor William has no room of his own but sleeps by the kitchen fire shivering with the cold. William isn't a complainer. He fears the retribution from the monks and so keeps his true feelings hidden.
Early in the novel William saves the life of a hob; a magical creature who is mistrustful of humans. The hob questions the behaviour of the monks and consequently William is confronted with difficult questions about religion and belief. He wonders about the mortality of angels, about the power of God and about the morality of the right to be buried within hallowed ground. The Crowfield Curse is by no means a religious novel but religion is something that William has to question as his character journeys through the novel.
Two other important characters in the story are Jacobus Bones and his Fey servant Shadlok. It is their entrance in the story that propels the plot forward. Up until this point, I felt the plot was slow as it centred upon the daily routines of the monks which in nature are highly repetitive. William is fearful of both men and perhaps rightly so. Shadlok's magic disturbs William because it alters his understanding of the world and he feels powerless against it. There is a darker atmosphere to the book once these two characters arrive at Crowfield Abbey and the author did an excellent job of creating a sense of foreboding.
Overall, I enjoyed reading The Crowfield Curse. The author uses description beautifully to evoke the fear of the Whistling Hollow and to portray the beauty of nature. William is a character who I pitied and yet related to enough to hope that he would get his heart's desire. I think this book would appeal to boys who have a particular love of historical facts. The detail of the historical setting was of the highest quality. I also recommend The Crowfield Curse to fans of historical fantasies in general.
NB: Pat Walsh is a UK debut author.