Review – The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh

Targetted at the 9-12 age group, this is a very engaging read suitable for all ages.  It is 1347 and our narrator, 15 year old William, is taken in by the monks at Crowfield Abbey when his parents perish in a fire which William miraculously survives.  These are hard times and William has to work very hard for his keep in freezing conditions with little food available to any of the inmates.  His only ally at the abbey is Brother Snail, a healer who helps William when he discovers a “hob” (fox like faerie creature) injured in the woods.  Thus the magic begins and as this medieval fantasy/mystery unfolds there are encounters with varying species of fays (both from the Seelie and Unseelie Courts i.e. good and bad!), talking animals, ancient curses, the legend that an angel lies buried in the woods.  It is the aforementioned angel which provokes a battle between good and evil and William treads a very dangerous path as his benefactors have concealed the story of the angel and his grave for over a hundred years.

At times this reminded me of a junior version of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose (0ne of my all time favourite reads) given that it’s set in a medieval abbey with all its secrets and skullduggery.  William is not a particularly perspicacious young detective as he tends to stumble into discoveries but he is a gentle, likeable soul, kind to animals and much more open minded than most of the monks.  It would appear he his gifted with the “sight” which allows him to see and rescue the “hob” known as Brother Walter as giving its real name would give someone else power over it.  William’s youthful optimism and willingness to investigate the unknown are at odds with the cloistered, claustrophobic nature of the abbey and its inhabitants.  The abbey setting is very atmospheric and gives the novel that brooding feeling of tension and suspense.

An enjoyable creepy tale whose medieval setting makes it stand out amongst other children’s fantasy novels.  Looking forward to the sequel, The Crowfield Demon, to be published in Spring 2011.

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