I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Book of the Crowman by Joseph D'Lacey
Series: The Black Dawn #2
Published: 2014 by Angry Robot
Genres: Fantasy, Horror/Gothic
Buy on Amazon
View on Goodreads
The Book of the Crowman is the second book in Joseph D’Lacey’s Black Dawn series, an ecological post-apocalyptic horror story about what happens when mankind stops respecting the Earth and the land itself begins to fight back.
The story is told from the perspectives of two different characters, representing both the future and the past. Megan is a young girl (around the age of puberty) who is training to be a Keeper. Keepers are responsible for protecting the balance between the people and the land, and for remembering the forces that almost destroyed the world. Megan’s journeys are mostly spiritual as she learns through various dreamlike experiences what happened to Gordon Black. Gordon lived during the time of the environmental apocalypse, and he’s on a mission to find the Crowman, a creature of legend who represents both death and new beginnings. During his travels, Gordon must fight the Ward, an organization that’s become machine-like in its efficiency and represents the destructive forces of totalitarianism. The Ward are inherently unsustainable, because they don’t have enough of a relationship with the land to even grow their own food, but they have grown powerful because they took all the guns/machinery/technology when the apocalypse occurred. Even though we know that the Ward won’t be able to last, the question remains whether there will be anything else left of humanity by the time that they fall apart. Fighting the Ward are the Green Men, who remind me a bit of Robin Hood. The Green Men live off the land and engage in small acts of guerrilla warfare, but they don’t have the kind of weapons or organization that they’d need to be able to confront the Ward head on and survive. They’re a remnant of humanity, and if Gordon finds the Crowman, he knows that he can give the Green Men a chance at a future.
The Book of the Crowman is much more allegorical than the first book in the series. Gordon Black emerges as a Christ figure whose journey and sacrifices give mankind the hope of a better future. I could go on about the parallels, but that would veer into serious spoilers. Suffice to say that Gordon is clearly a Jesus figure, but less passive. Gordon fights the Ward and isn’t afraid to kill for what he believes in. There are occasions where he’ll risk his own life to try to save someone from harm, and he will give bad people what they deserve. There’s also less of a hangup about sex. On a deeper level, the Crowman’s message is to be aware of both the light and dark sides of humanity and to maintain a balance with the world. You can’t pretend that the darker parts of human nature don’t exist, but you can acknowledge them and channel them in ways that are less destructive. Even though the book has a very clear message, it doesn’t come off as preachy or patronizing. You know what the author wants you to get out of the story, but the story itself is compelling.
Many of the scenes in The Book of the Crowman are quite brutal. There are scenes involving disease, cannibalism, and disembowelment, all in graphic detail (you might not want to read The Book of the Crowman while or immediately before eating). These scenes serve as a reminder of just how bad the Ward is and what mankind is capable of in times of desperation. These scenes are contrasted with Megan’s own time, where for the most part, life is relatively peaceful. Megan lives in a small village in an agrarian society that remains in touch with nature. By contrasting Megan’s world with Gordon’s, we can see both the good and the bad that mankind is capable of and the importance of maintaining a relationship with nature.
Overall, I was quite pleased with this duology. It’s a harsh depiction of what can happen if mankind goes too far, and yet it’s also filled with hope for a brighter day. It’s worth a read.