Friday, 19 August 2011

The Crowfield Demon

The Crowfield Demon by Pat Walsh (Chicken House for Scholastic Aust.)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 9781906427634
Reviewed by Dawn Meredith

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read yet another supernatural themed book, but the second instalment of the ‘Crowfield’ series intrigued me largely because of its unusual setting.

In recent times the relevance of Christian religion has been questioned. Walsh fearlessly throws us into a medieval period when religious belief was a big part of everyday life and the sacred lifelong commitment to seclusion and study was more common. The belief in angels and fallen angels who became demons is absolute. That there was war in Heaven and angels of both persuasions were sent to Earth is likewise considered fact. And there was more than a cursory nod to the ancient rites and beliefs of goddess worship.

Walsh creates an intense world I found easy to identify with.The desperate lives of the villagers and clergy, living on the knife edge of existence due to poverty and poor weather conditions stirred my sympathy and my curiosity.

Will lost his family in a terrible fire in book one, The Crowfield Curse and has been living with the brothers at Crowfield Abbey, tending gardens, running errands and eating very poorly. Times are tough and the brothers have little to eat. The abbey is in poor repair. But things are about to get much, much worse. A demon resides beneath the abbey’s floor, trapped in an enchantment, but with power that grows daily. A crack appears in the abbey walls, then it collapses, killing one of the brothers. The abbey is built upon a much older religious site, one where sacrifices were made to a ‘god’ Raum, the demon now wakening. Will unwittingly releases Raum when he removes a wooden box containing a cup inscribed with warnings about a fallen angel.

Are Will and his faithful friends, kindly Brother Snail, the fox-like ‘hob’, Brother Walter and the fey, Brother Shadlock faced with the rise of The Dark King once more, after defeating him in book one by digging up an angel of light? Or is the creature under the abbey are far greater threat, its dark power formidable? Will follows clues left by a previous abbot in secret messages but battles against the ignorance and fear of the current abbot, Prior Ardo, who wants nothing to do with the witchcraft which bound the demon to the cup last time.

Despite the abbot and his followers’ prayerful vigil in the remains of the abbey chapel, the demon comes into its full power and rampages throughout the countryside, killing and burning. The whole world seems to be at its mercy. What can one young boy do? Believing in the purity and light of the angel he found three months ago in the forest, Will prays and prays for rescue. But will it be enough?

The Crowfield Demon was a great read and I thought the glossary at the back explaining terminology such as: ‘book of hours’, ‘reredorter’, ‘sigils’ and ‘chapter house’ was helpful for enhancing the reader’s understanding. I think this book will encourage children to want to learn more about The Middle Ages, which, for all its dark dangers, was a very intriguing time of history.

Dawn Meredith writes from the Blue Mountains and is a May Gibbs Fellow 2011. You can follow her exploits at www.dawnmeredithauthor.blogspot.com

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