Monday, December 20, 2010

The Crowfield Curse, by Pat Walsh

First Published by Chicken House, 2010

It is Winter, 1347. There has always been something slighty strange about William - he was the only one to walk away from a fire that devastated his whole family and he has the rare gift of the sight: the ability to see what exists beyond the edges of the human realm. Since the fire he has been taken in by the monks of Crowfield Abbey and put to work. His life is hard but normal ... until he rescues a trapped hob. And then it begins - a world of secrets and hidden dangers, of encounters with the fay and mysterious travellers. William gradually learns that somewhere in the forest behind the abbey is a grave. And in that grave is a creature Will never thought could exist. But he is not the only one who knows about it. Something else knows, too - something not human.

The Crowfield Curse was another book I've been meaning to read for ages. I thought, from what I've heard and read about it, that it was going to blow me away. It didn't. The premise is great and the time period rich with potential, but the actual story-telling, the writing, did not follow through. I did not find this book particularly original or enchanting, and I was left a little impatient to just get it read and over with.

My main problem was the writing. I have written my own children's manuscripts and had them edited and workshopped and all the rest. I love the process, but it does take time and effort. And when I read a book that is full of everything (technically and stylistically) I have just been told to cut and rework, it does make me go 'huh?' I mainly had trouble with over-use of adverbs, especially when modifying verbs, and way too much filtering (too much thinking and feeling when to show it through action and dialogue would be far more compelling). Some of the descriptions were uninspired. I also felt that the way characters spoke was not altogether fitting with the time period they came from.

Are these things forgiveable, because it is a kid's book? Do they help the younger reader to see and understand? Do children bring fresher eyes to a book and thus these stylistic choices are not as obvious? I can make a few allowances but when they are used so often, as in The Crowfield Curse, then they actually drag the pacing of the story down and just feel like lazy writing.

Not to be misunderstood - I didn't not like this book. There is a nice sense of adventure and mystery, and it doesn't play dumb - characters get hurt and killed and the stakes remain high (although I was never in fear for William). Brother Snail and the Hob are lovely additions. I did get confused trying to distinguish between the other monks, though. Pat Walsh is an archaeologist, and all the detail, especially of the day-to-day life of Crowfield Abbey, was actually the most interesting part of the book.

I'm just left a little unsatisfied - I wanted there to be a greater sense of story. But in the end, I felt like it was just another children's book, with nothing truly individual to set it apart.

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