Series: The Black Dawn #1
Published: 2013 by Angry Robot
Genres: Fantasy, Horror/Gothic
Buy on Amazon
View on Goodreads
Black Feathers is the first book in The Black Dawn, a series by Joseph D’Lacey that is set in the aftermath of an environmental apocalypse in a world not unlike our own. When I saw this book at Barnes & Noble, I was immediately sucked in by the opening lines of the prologue, and knew that I just had to read it.
When the final days came, it was said that Satan walked the Earth in the guise of a crow. Those who feared him called him Scarecrow or Black Jack. I know him as the Crowman.
I speak for him.
Across the face of the Earth, in every nation, great suffering arose and billions perished. An age of solar flares began, rendering much of our technology useless. The cataclysms that befell us, the famine and sicknesses, the wars–it was all the work of the Crowman, so they said. Yet it was ignorance that fueled our terror of him and the rumors of his wickedness.
Ignorance and convenience; we needed someone to blame.
Black Feathers is divided between two protagonists, one in the present, and one in the distant past.
A girl named Megan sees the Crowman in the forest, and thus begins her training to become a Keeper, which is kind of like a Native American medicine man. The Keepers preserve mankind’s connection to the Earth. So far all the Keepers have been male, and there is a prophecy that the first female Keeper will either be the one to save the world or destroy it.
As she is trained, Megan has flashbacks to the distant past. A little boy named Gordon is born in a society like our own. Gordon is special. From the day he was born, crows have flocked to him, and they appear to protect him. As he grows up, mankind’s abuse of the environment causes the very earth to revolt. As corporations cling to power, food shortages and natural disasters become ubiquitous and mankind’s technology begins to fail. Gordon embarks on a journey to find the mysterious Crowman, who appears as a symbol of hope throughout urban legends.
Both characters have compelling life stories despite being from completely different worlds. Megan’s adventures take on a spiritual nature, and her greatest enemies are in her own mind. Gordon, on the other hand, is being chased by an entire organization of cold-blooded killers. Normally when I read books with two protagonists, I end up liking one more than the other, but in Black Feathers I quickly became attached to both of them.
D’Lacey presents a strong message of environmentalism, but it doesn’t get so preachy that it detracts from the story. He focuses on the need to give back to the earth and to take care of it. The story’s worst villains are those who believe in profits at the expense of life, and they are more terrifying because we can see in them a reflection of problems in our own society. And yet, Megan’s presence in a simpler village after the apocalypse shows that there is hope for humanity and that we aren’t all doomed if we make an effort to make better choices. For more about this, you might want to check out the guest post that the author wrote for me a couple weeks ago about the role of environmentalism in his stories.
All in all, Black Feathers was a good read, and I look forward to continuing the series.