Review of ‘The Book of the Crowman’ by Joseph D’Lacey

The Book of the Crowman is the continuation of the post-apocalyptic series The Black Dawn by British author Joseph D’Lacey, which was begun in Black Feathers (You can read my review of Black Feathers here.) The Book of the Crowman is a fascinating and engaging story that continues the seamless integration of multiple genres and styles that so interested me in the first volume. I was really looking forward to the release of this book, and was not at all disappointed.

The world has been condemned. Only Gordon Black and The Crowman can redeem it. 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. It is the Bright Day, a time long generations hence, when a peace has descended across the world. It is the Black Dawn, a time of environmental apocalypse, the earth wracked and dying.

I’m a much bigger fan of a multiple book series when it is split up after the fact for length, and not designed that way from the outset. That way you never feel like there’s any stretching of content, any filler there just to justify the trilogy, etc. The Black Dawn was conceived and mostly executed as one single volume, and it was only split when it was clear just how much story there was here. If you have yet to read Black Feathers, I’d absolutely suggest that the benefit of reading them back-to-back outweighs the potential risk of buying both and then not liking them. Because how could you not like them? I linked to my review of the first book of this larger volume up at the top, and all of my positive claims about the story and the writing style continue to apply. This is more of the same of a great thing.

But of course, simply saying “Same as above” makes for a pretty crappy review. I can do better than that! One of the things that really struck me about this story, which I think adds to the universality of it, and the thing that I feel will keep it interesting and relevant a long time from now, is the iconic level of the imagery. In the portion of the story dealing with Gordon and the apocalypse which leads to the post-apocalyptic world Megan inhabits, the factions involved in this struggle are ‘The Ward’ and ‘The Green Men.’ Leaving aside the references to existing mythology inherent in ‘The Green Man’, both of these groups are identified almost entirely by ideology, and not anything particular to them inside the narrative. ‘Peace through Control’ and ‘Peace through Freedom’ is a dichotomy that has never really -not- existed, and I’m not sure it will ever be resolved in a final way. I consider it a mandatory requirement of anything dystopian for me to call it ‘good’ that the issues at hand avoid being too dated or specific to an era in which it was written. You should be able to read a novel like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale in virtually any era and still find it chilling and cautionary, and The Book of the Crowman definitely dodged that bullet as well. The forces represented by ‘The Ward’ are pretty nearly primal.

Throughout the entirely of The Black Dawn but much more prevalent in The Book of the Crowman, since the story closes out in this volume, is the question of history, myth and legend. The story of Gordon is the search for the Crowman. He is sure that the Crowman exists, but has never met him in a way that confirms it. As he travels, he meets people who believe that the Crowman is real, that he is a metaphor, that he is an invention, even that he was created by the enemy just to be defeated and crush the spirits of ‘The Green Men’. When you move to the future with Megan, the same is true. She is not nearly the first to be experiencing the life of Gordon and the search for the Crowman, and each previous ‘Keeper’ has told the tale in a different way. This calls into doubt whether even the story we’re seeing from Gordon’s perspective is fact or if it is just a legend being told and retold. It actually makes the story more powerful, that it has endured for so long, yet we don’t as readers get to just know ahead of time ‘yeah, totally real.’

The development of the story through the finish here makes this feel less like a coming-of-age story than the first volume did, but I will still go ahead and keep pushing the Urban Fantasy of Charles De Lint as a good choice if you enjoy this sort of setting.

Dan received a review copy of this book courtesy of Angry Robot Books via NetGalley.

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Author: Dan Ruffolo

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