Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Curse or a Blessing

Within the first two sentences an author has the unique opportunity to hook the reader immediately. 
William crouched behind the fallen oak tree and listened.  Close by, someone---or something--was whimpering in pain.
We have already been told beneath the chapter heading that it is winter 1347 but now we want to know:  Who is William?  Where is the fallen oak tree?  Who or what is in pain?

William was orphaned when his entire family, except for an older brother who left several years ago, were burned in a fire that destroyed their home, the town mill.  William was found dazed and unharmed after the fire.  None of the villagers would take him in believing William to be not quite as normal or natural as they; in other words, why did he survive the fire?  The monks at Crowfield Abbey have given him a place to live where he works for his keep.  He is gathering firewood in nearby Foxwist Wood when he hears the sounds of distress. 
For a few moments, William's mind went blank.  He stared down into the large, watchful eyes and felt the hairs on the back of his neck hackle. This was neither animal nor man, but he could speak.  What manner of creature could do that?  Fear stroked a cold finger down William's spine. His mouth had gone dry and his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth.  Part of him wanted to turn and run, but another part of him was rooted to the spot by curiosity.

A hobgoblin, hob, has been caught in a trap set by nearby villagers.  Only those with the Sight of Old Magic can see such creatures.  Being a compassionate soul, William releases the trap and secretly brings him back to the abbey to be healed by Brother Snail.  Returning to the Wood William fearful but determined walks to the Whistling Hollow throwing the trap into the pool so no more harm can be done.  Words whispered on the air say to him, This will not be forgotten.  Sinister sensations lay thick about William in this place.

Overheard conversations, two visitors, one a leper and the other deadly silent with a face scarred like lines on a map,  an old crone with her white crow,  a stunning feather hidden in the abbey, century old secrets, unseen eyes following his every move and questions whose answers could shake the very foundation of peoples' beliefs draw William into an age old battle that could tip the balance between the forces of good and evil.

This is how author, Pat Walsh reels the reader into The Crowfield Curse totally and completely after only two chapters.  Her background as a trained archaeologist is evident in her vivid descriptions of life and events in this story.  Her skill with words makes us feel the the constant, bitter cold, the day to day struggle for the merest scrap of food and clothing.  Believable depictions of each character as well as the dialogue between them is so well wrought it is surprising they do not walk off the page into our lives.

What sets this fantasy apart from others is the subtle blending of the two worlds, European medieval and the fay; it's as if this is the way that it truly was and always will be. By the book's end readers know this is only the beginning of a story they will gladly enter again.  Crowfield Demon is on its way to Charlevoix as of this writing and this reader can not wait.

Walsh does include a timetable of daily life in the winter at Crowfield Abbey along with a glossary of terms at the conclusion of the book.

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