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The Book of the Crowman by Joseph D’Lacey

The Book of The Crowman is a direct sequel to Black Feathers. I strongly urge you to read Black Feathers first, honest, I’m not kidding you know. There is also a good chance that this review may contain spoilery type elements if you haven’t read book one.

It is the Black Dawn, a time of environmental apocalypse, the earth wracked and dying.

It is the Bright Day, a time long generations hence, when a peace has descended across the world.

The search for the shadowy figure known only as the Crowman continues, as the Green Men prepare to rise up against the forces of the Ward. 

The world has been condemned. Only Gordon Black and The Crowman can redeem it.

Black Feathers was a bit of a revelatory moment for me. I’ve read most of Joseph D’Lacey’s existing back catalogue but wasn’t sure how I was going to get on with a novel that didn’t fit neatly into the horror genre. I needn’t have worried, I was utterly engrossed by his first foray into fantasy. Since then, I’ve been waiting patiently for book two and now that it’s finally here I can confirm it’s a corker.

Whenever I read a novel, I’m always on the look of for evolution in a character. I want to see evidence that events within the narrative have left their mark. I’m looking for a realistic development/change in the protagonist that makes logical sense and helps to drive the plot forward. This is where The Book of the Crowman excels. Hell, evolution doesn’t seem a strong enough word, it doesn’t adequately convey the depth of transformation that Gordon Black experiences. The reader gets to follow a metamorphosis, a re-invention, as Gordon grows from boy to man. As the countryside and society collapses and evolves, Gordon’s role transforms and evolves with it. He changes at the most fundamental level and this story chronicles that, often harrowing, change.

Megan Maurice also returns. In the future of the Bright Day, she continues to learn the story of the Crowman and how he is connected to Gordon. The moments of duality that exist between Gordon and Megan’s respective journeys continue to be explored in-depth.

I think the thing I like most about this novel is the enigmatic nature of the title character. D’Lacey drops lots of subtle hints, suggesting many things, but never fully commits entirely to a single interpretation of who and what the Crowman actually is. I suspect this will drive some readers absolutely nuts but I felt that this sense of ambiguity was exactly right, the author is inviting users to draw their own conclusions. It’s rare that I come across fiction that I immediately know I’m going to read again in the future, but I knew very quickly that it was the case here. Fiction that challenges established ideas and prompts thought is always worth revisiting again and again.

The Book of the Crowman, and its predecessor, successfully blend together elements from a host of genres. Urban fantasy, traditional folklore and myth, post-apocalyptic science fiction and horror are all represented. A single word of warning – the climax of book two contains some particularly graphic imagery. It’s warranted though, as it fits perfectly into the confines of the plot, still shocking none the less.

With the conclusion of this novel D’Lacey has crafted a duology that feels both topical and timeless in the same breath. Hidden just beneath the surface of this engaging story there are many questions the author is asking the reader to ponder. He’s casting a light on the important issues that everyone needs to be considering as modern society develops. It’s lofty stuff. There are many perceptive ideas covering everything from politics, religion and philosophy.  D’Lacey’s writing is not just a clarion call for environmentalism, but also a manifesto for change.

There is an exceptionally short list of genre books that have had a profound effect on my way of thinking. One day I may even tell you what some of the others are. Currently however, all you need to know is that Black Feathers and The Book of the Crowman have just been added to that list. Smart insightful fiction that challenges preconceived notions and makes a reader properly think is a truly wonderful thing. This is flawlessly executed fantasy that I can’t recommend highly enough. I’ve said it before, and I hope I get the opportunity to say it again, Joseph D’Lacey is an author who everyone should be reading.

The Book of the Crowman is published by Angry Robot Books and is available from 25th February 2014. I strongly suggest reading both books and becoming wise.

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