If you read my review of Black Feathers by Joseph D’Lacey, or saw it listed as one of my favorite books of 2013, you won’t be surprised to know that I I was eagerly awaiting The Book of the Crowman (the second half of the Black Dawn Duology). It can be hard to read a follow up to a book that you thought so highly of. There is always concern that if the second book doesn’t live up to your expectations, how to handle an honest review without sounding so negative that the entire series sounds unworthy of being read
To get to the point, what I found was a bit more of a mixed bag for me than Black Feathers was. I wish I could write another gushy review and tell everyone they must go read this book, but I can’t quite do that. To be fair, I had high expectations, so there was a lot to be accomplished to live up to them. I’ll start with what worked very well. Gordan’s character has grown and developed. I love that D’Lacey did not turn him into some faultless hero. Even in the beginning of the book, Gordan’s pursuit for the Crowman and his fight against the Ward have made him practically a living legend. But with every act for his cause, there is still a price, there is darkness that comes and becomes a part of Gordon. This is not a book that glorifies death count of the enemy.
I also really enjoyed the how the story unfolded, learning the origin of the Crowman as well as the Keepers. I love the folklore feel of it and the mystery it presents as we watch the two main protagonist’s stories unfold, waiting for them to intersect in some way. But I have to be honest here. It took me almost halfway through the book before I was very intrigued by Megan’s storyline. Once I got to that point, I felt it flowed as well as it did in the first book, so I quite enjoyed the second half. But I also have to say that is way too long and ask ‘why was that’? I honestly think that it was because her sections felt way too preachy.
D’Lacey is obviously an activist, and I certainly don’t want to fault the book for having a message. But, in Black Feathers, there was also a strong environmental message, perhaps some found that one too preachy, but I did not, I quite enjoyed it. The Book of the Crowman would have really benefited with a bit more subtlety with its message instead of being so heavy handed with it. Showing instead of telling could go a long way here. Megan’s chapters are the ones that really laid it all out there.
The one other area I found a bit troubling was a sudden switch to first person from a secondary character’s POV. This was very strange, a bit jarring and only a handful of pages. I am usually quite tolerant of perspective changes, I am not someone who is typically bothered by first person, but usually there is some rhyme or reason to it or some structural need for the change that is used consistently throughout the book. Here, it just happened once and I could not figure out the justification.
But, complaints aside, there is still much to love here. The Book of the Crowman is the grim and haunting unfolding of folklore with an honest and powerful conclusion. Fans of the first book should definitely give it a shot, if they find the first half slow, hang in there, because the story as a whole is certainly worth reading.
The Book of the Crowman will be released February 25th by Angry Robot Books. Many thanks to the Angry Robot and NetGalley for the ARC in return for my honest review.