Monday, 1 February 2010

Book Review: Alice Croggon – The Crow

The third instalment of the Pellinor series shifts the focus of action away from the main protagonist Maerad and onto her young brother Hem. As Maerad continues her search for the mysterious "Treesong” whilst trying to evade the Nameless Ones armies, Hem has been installed in the bard school of Turbansk, the greatest city of the Suderain in the South of Edil-Amarandh. Suderain is also the closest of the kingdoms of Edil-Amarandh to the realm of the King Sharma, the Nameless One.

Like Maerad, Hem has suffered throughout his childhood. Fearful of the prophecy that a child of Pellinor will destroy him, the Nameless One has destroyed the kingdom and school of Pellinor where Maerad’s mother rules as First Bard (or mage) and steals Hem dumping him into a cruel orphanage. Before long, he is taken away by Hulls, bards who have joined Sharma in return for promises of eternal life, who attempt to corrupt him. He escapes and joins the Pilanel, or travelling folk before they are traced and slaughtered by Hulls. He is only saved by the intervention of Maerad who eventually realises Hem is her brother and sends him to Turbansk hoping he will be safe there.

Hem is enthralled with Turbansk but struggles to fit into the school. His childish woes are short-lived though when Sharma’s forces threaten to attack Turbansk and the city has to be evacuated.

The rest of the book is a poignant account of a beautiful and loved city under siege, of heroes knowingly walking to their deaths (including the valiant queen of Turbansk, who is an amazing character) and of the horror of war. Hem escapes after the fall of Turbansk, but finds himself in Den Raevan, the realm of the Nameless One and what he finds there is so horrific that it seems that there is no hope of return.

When I started reading this book straight after the other two, I was a little annoyed that the story had switched from Maerad and onto Hem who I wasn’t so interested in. It took me a while to get into the book, although Croggans descriptions of Turbansk and the effort she puts into describing the history, language and people of the Suderain and the rest of Edil-Amarandh certainly helped.

Before long though the pace is ramped up and the descriptions of a city under siege are full of tension. The charge of the heroic warriors, the fall of their standard in battle and the ruin of the city are very moving and the armies of the Nameless One, particularly his Dogsoldiers are horrible. The real horrors though are yet to come.

The book takes a nasty turn as it describes how the Nameless One has ruined the earth and created deformed creatures (a bit like radiation poisoning causes) and is sending children into battle. Hem witnesses the brutalisation of the traumatised children and their descent into savagery, and doing so, almost gives up hope of surviving his ordeal.

Not in the same league as the second book in the series which has been the best so far, but certainly enjoyable and it does help the story to progress as well as developing some of the secondary characters introduced in earlier books. I can’t wait to get started on the fourth and last instalment of this series, which despite not being too crazy about at the beginning, has really turned up trumps.

Book Review: Alison Croggon – The Gift

Book Review: Alice Croggon - The Riddle

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