Black Feathers by Joseph DLacey
Angry Robot Books have a knack of finding some of the most different and bizarre fantasy books, and with Black Feathers by Joseph D'Lacey they continue to push the boundaries of what we expect fantasy to be. Described by some as an eco-horror story with mythological and fantasy elements, Black Feathers is a pre and post apocalyptic story that is dark, brooding, and fascinating to read.
Black Feathers tells the story of Gordon Black, a young boy born into a time where the Earth is beginning to fight back against all the harm being done to it by humans. Gordon is prophesised as the harbinger of the Black Dawn - an ecological collapse that will cleanse the Earth so it can be born anew. The narrative goes back and forth between Gordon's story and the story of Megan Maurice, a young girl who is living hundreds of years after the Black Dawn and has been selected by the Crowman to become a Keeper of stories. It is Megan's fate to walk the Black Feathered Path, to explore the past through her dreams and through the Weave so that she can record the story of Gordon Black. As the book says, without the teller there can be no tale.
Jasper has already written a review for Black Feathers so I am going to try and keep this short. The thing that stands out for me is the atmosphere of darkness, mystery and intrigue that permeates through the whole book. This is a bleak story, it is very heavy going, but it allows small glimpses of positivity to stand out in contrast to all the ruin around it. The mystery and intrigue surrounding the Crowman and the associate lore kept me glued to each page. I wanted to know more about the Crowman, the Keepers, the Ward, the Green Men, and D'Lacey just kept stringing me along all the way to end.
There were times during the book that I felt the author was a little heavy handed with some environmentalism messages (corporations and government = bad), and the ending I think could have aimed a little higher and had some more impact, but these are pretty minor complaints when I compare them to how much I enjoyed reading this story. There are also some reasonably graphic scenes - they aren't overly violent but they are vivid and visceral. I thought they were brilliant scenes, but I can definitely understand if they make others a bit uncomfortable.
Black Feathers is one of the best books I have read this year. Stephen King is quoted as saying "Joseph D'Lacey rocks", and while he may have been referring to one of D'Lacey's previous works, I think the comment still stands. I don't think I've read a book quite like Black Feathers, but I know I liked it and I suspect that many of you will like it too.
Ryan Lawler, 9/10
It is the Black Dawn, a time of environmental apocalypse, the earth wracked and dying. It is the Bright Day, a time long generations hence, when a peace has descended across the world. In each era, a child shall be chosen. Their task is to find a dark messiah known only as the Crowman. But is he our saviour - or the final incarnation of evil?
Ryan has been recommending some horror books my way. Horror has always been a genre that I have enjoyed reading but a good horror book is hard to come by. But when Stephen King is quoted on the cover with “Joseph D’Lacey rocks” it should say enough right?
When I read the synopsis I though standard apocalyptic story where you see the world descend slowly into disarray, following the footsteps of two children and how they perceive the downward spiral of society. However the book starts with Satan and references towards The Crowman, Black Jack and Scarecrow. From the prologue it is stressed that there cannot be a tale without a teller but moreover that “the Crowman is no more evil than you or I”. I now didn’t have a clue how this story would turn out and the more I read the more I appreciated what was being told.
There is a special child in each era that sets off in search of the illusive Crowman. And this child you get to follow in this book, his tale starts at the beginning of 2000 and via a few letters you are brought up to 2014. This is Gordon Black, and from his coming into the world and rest of his part in Black Feathers you know that he is special. During his delivery crows are perched on his window sill as well as when his mother goes outside with him when he is still a baby. Because his mother reacts quite badly his father shoots the crows with his gun, but this actually has a response on Gordon and he starts to scream. So now my guesses were that Gordon and the crows must be connected. Is he the incarnation of evil reborn? Is he Satan? Well, that cannot be since the prologue mentioned that there is no physical embodiment. This whole setting around Gordon’s character alone definitely piqued my curiosity. I have to quickly mention that the book consists of two parts: Part I: Among Crows and Part II: Two Walk a Black Feathered Path. After the introduction of Gordon you quickly see that the Britain his parents knew is falling out of control. Recession, riots, governments collapsing, militant forces arising and diseases returning. Is this due to Gordon walking the Earth? As you see several chapters with Gordon there are a lot of things happening in his presence but if it is due to him, that is something for you to find out… All I can say is that is even now it is all still going round and round in my head.
When you see Gordon in his later years, he is completely different, and he has seen a lot of horror and grief. As I briefly mentioned, Britain as we know it is out of control and soon Gordon is on his own and has to fend for himself. This does not come without a few harsh lessons and as a reader I really wanted to help him get to his goals and support him… Even though you still got that lingering feeling that not everything is what it seems with Gordon.
The second major character in the book is Megan. Her character refers to “For without a teller, there can be no tale”. Megan is picked out to become a Keeper. Keepers are special people that exist solely to recount the tale of the Crowman, to keep the story alive. They are able to travel through time, from past to future and back. She lives in a different world and her role in Black Feathers is to collect the story of the Crowman and write it down so it can be told.
The book is divided into two parts. The first part really focuses on setting the ground rules and introducing both Gordon and Megan using a third-person narrative. In the second part Gordon is on his own and his storyline is told using the first person narrative. This shift in writing style really made the latter part of the book come alive, it grabbed me and I really started feeling for Gordon and rooting for him during his encounters.
Black Feathers is a unique take on horror and it was for a me a story that did not turn out the way I expected. The narration of the book was great and it felt like the myth surrounding the Crowman is being read to me, being handed down to the next generation.
Jasper de Joode, 8/10
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