The Crowfield Curse
This is a fantasy with an unusually realistic medieval setting. Will, an orphan who works as a servant at the abbey, is gifted with the Sight, and becomes unwillingly involved in the struggle between two powerful fay kings. The story begins when Will rescues a fay creature, a hob, from a trap in the wintry woods. Then two unsettling visitors arrive at the abbey and seem particularly interested in the hundred-year-old legend of the death and burial of an angel in the woods. The mysterious and unfriendly Shadlok – a fay knight – recruits Will to help them in their search.
On the surface it’s a story full of familiar elements – the forces of good and evil, the abbey, the gentle herbalist brother, the dark secret in the woods – but Pat Walsh has given it strength and freshness with her atmospheric setting of medieval life. We see the rigours of life in winter – with details like the relative comfort of living in a wooden hovel compared to the cold stone rooms in the abbey. This is a world in which people struggle to survive – snaring rooks and crows to add to the pottage, hauling firewood, fetching pails of water, all in bitter cold and snow – and Will has to work hard for his keep. Even visits to nearby villages involve long walks through the woods along bad roads. The names of these villages – Iwele, Weforde – add to the atmosphere. There is a real sense of how restricted the villagers’ world view was, and of how people thought in those days; how most of them, unable to read, relied instead on paintings and holy objects.
The story is well-paced and involving, and the central mystery comes to a powerful climax. In the final part, a surprise development hints that Will’s life may change completely – and not in the ways he’d hoped. Perhaps a sequel is planned? Imaginative readers will enjoy this exciting story.