Book Review: Black Feathers by Joseph D’Lacey
Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Post-Apocalyptic, Supernatural
Series: Book 1 of Black Dawn
Publisher: Angry Robot (March 26, 2013)
Tiara’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
This is an advance reader copy that I snagged from Netgalley. I think the book will be released sometime in March/April 2013. From this point on, there will be spoilers.
Gordon Black’s birth signals the beginning of the end for the world. As each year passes, the world falls further into economic and environmental upheaval. Tired of the abuses committed against her Mother Earth rebels and begins to purge her lands of the people who harm her, leaving only those who give back as much as they take. In 2014, a few months before his 14th birthday, Gordon begins a journey to find the Crowman who he hopes can set everything right.
Megan Maurice is a young girl who lives quite some time after the collapse of everything. People are living in simpler times, reminiscent of life before technology and materialism had a firm grip on humanity. Megan is on the cusp of womanhood when she’s called to become a keeper, someone who keeps the story of the Crowman alive. She is the first and only female keeper, and her teacher, a man known only as Mr. Keeper, says that she will either bring them total salvation or total destruction. He can’t be completely sure of her part yet, though he knows everything will change for better or worse because of her.
No adventure is without its foes, and the foes in this story are called The Ward. They’re a group of people who believe that the earth is only there to be exploited by man, despite all the environmental warnings taking place. Their goal is to unite all the nations under one rule. In the chaos and calamity, they introduce strict laws (such as making migrant workers return to their own countries) which are lauded by the people whose fear makes them blind to what The Ward is truly trying to achieve. However, The Ward knows about Gordon, and their main goal is to stop him from meeting the Crowman, an event that will prevent them from reaching their full power.
This book entwined two stories from different points in time, the past and the future, but neither story could be told without the other.
This story was almost like reading a legend, a story passed down from generation to generation by a griot charged to help save humanity. It’s a story that gives its readers a cautionary tale replete with warnings of mythical proportions, an apologue to keep close to our hearts. It pulls you in like a familiar. You can easily forget that this isn’t some oral tradition that’s been written down but the fictional work of a talented writer as you learn about a certain part of the past from Gordon and Megan.
Despite this, I still wanted to know where all the knowledge has gone after the collapse. Megan is aware that the earth is round. However, she’d never seen a car or electrical lights before visiting the time of Gordon’s birth. Perhaps, not having the knowledge of technology might slow humanity reliving the days of the Black Dawn, which is blamed on technology and greed, but what about ancient history? I guess knowing our history could lead to people making the same discoveries and following the same doomed path as before.
And maybe they do know a bit about these things, but that’s not what is important for this story. Telling the Crowman’s story is what’s important. And his part in this thing is the only knowledge the readers and the book’s characters need. The knowledge to understand how this happened, and the knowledge of how they can prevent this from happening again. I don’t know. I guess it just feels as if it’s a great disservice that they’ll never know who made certain discoveries–such as who discovered the earth was round.
However, you can’t miss what you’ve never had. And I do appreciate when an author’s writing makes me think about minutiae such as that. It means I’m involved. It means I care about the story and the people in it. It’s not a question that needs to be answered by any means. This is just the history lover in me mourning this loss for them when they’re none the wiser.
This book seems to try to capture some of that magic that makes Stephen King’s novels compelling. For some reason, while reading this, my mind would drift to the Dark Tower series. That is not meant to be an insult to this book or the author. King manages to take ordinary things and people and weave extraordinary stories from them, making even the most mundane things important. He always manages to write his characters in a way that makes them seem like people you encounter everyday while exploring the good and bad in them, and these are things that I felt D’Lacey was grasping for in his own writing.
However, instead of using gore-ridden visuals to capture the reader’s attention, more of the violence is implied, leaving the reader to use their imagination. Yes, there are some very graphic descriptions in this book, but most of them are not. In fact, this whole novel relies more on dark allusion and prophetic imagery than anything else. Left with your own imagination to fill in the blank, the story can take on new meanings, meanings that may be slightly different from reader to reader.
Needless to say, I really enjoyed this book. It wasn’t without its faults, but most of it was more in the grammatical/editing vein, which is not unusual of ARCs anyway. The ending made my heart drop and almost frantic for more. I’m ready for book two, and book one hasn’t even been released yet. This is a story I will be thinking about for a very long time.