Sunday, April 14, 2024

Library Day with The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh

The library in the nearby, small town might be...well, not large, but modern technology and things such as library borrowing opens up an amazing wealth of literature. Once a month, I try to explore a read, which I picked up through our library. 

Today's read was a suggestion I stumbled across on Twitter. This book first appeared in 2010 and won quite a bit of attention as well as awards. I found the idea of mixing an orphan, a monastery, and fey interesting, and decided to take a peek.

Crowfield Abby, #1
by Pat Walsh
The Chicken House
Middle Grade Fantasy
322 pages
ages 8 to 12

An angel is buried behind the abbey! It's 1347, and Will, an orphan boy, lives and works as an apprentice of the Crowfield monks. Sent into the forest to gather firewood, he stumbles across a trapped, wounded creature no bigger than a cat. The little goblin shares a terrible secret: Buried deep in the snow behind the monastery is an angel. But, Will wonders, how can an angel die? And what does this angel have to do with the history of Crowfield? When two cloaked strangers show up and start asking questions, Will is drawn into a dangerous world of Old Magic.



I love discovering middle grade books, which never talk down to the readers and build rich tales that capture the imagination and transport to another world. This book does exactly that.

The year is 1347. Will was taken in by the Crowfield monastery after he was left as an orphan. Now, he serves the monks and helps with the daily tasks. While collecting firewood in the forest, he runs across an injured, odd creature and sneaks it into the monastery, where he can help nurse it back to health. But that's not the only secret Will soon is hiding. Only he and one of the other monks can see the goblin, which means he carries the Sight...and that's not something the other monks can ever know. When a pair of visitors come to the monastery and start pressing him for information about an angel's burying place, Will discovers there's an entire world of magic around him and not all of it is good. Part of it is deadly and will do anything to get its hands on Will.

Set in a monastery in the middle of the forest during the middle ages, there is already quite a bit of richness before the magical world of the fey joins in. Will's life as a servant at the monastery make him easy to sympathize with. His work is hard, and while the monks are stern, they aren't unkind, either. The world of the monastery offers a nice, darkish atmosphere, especially when it is surrounded by a woods in winter. Details not only in the surroundings but in the daily life add vivid moments, which draw in. And this is never delivered in a boring manner. Will is wrapped up in quite the situation, and boredom is the last thing he has time for.

The author has created an intriguing world, which balances on the odd border between a Catholic monastery and the fantastical world of the fey. While the two ideals clash hard, they weave together in a manner which adds to the growing tension. The world of Will sinks more and more into the shadows of secrets and danger as he digs deeper to figure out what is going on. He gains some unexpected friends, learns that what appears good isn't always pure, and finds security in places he most wants to leave. There's quite a bit of character arc, especially considering this is only the first adventure in the series. 

Fantasy fans and those who enjoy dark secrets mixed with danger are sure to get lost in these pages.

No comments: