Vivid imagery, beautifully described landscapes and a powerful story line; Croggon's third instalment in the Pellinor series is a tale of heightened emotions and great human endurance in the face of an ever growing threat from both "the evil within", and the armies of the Nameless.
"In the darkness the Light shines more brightly", here indeed is a tale riddled with great darkness and loss and fear. We follow Hem, brother of The Fated One, Elednor- The Fire Lilly of Edil-Amarandth, prophesied to bring about the downfall of the Nameless One in his darkest rising, on his journey South to the ancient and extravagant city of Turbansk with his mentor Saliman.
Hem in the opening chapters of the book appears as a troubled adolescent, questioning who he is, what he wants from life and where he belongs. This contemplating of his existence, doesn't last long however as Turbansk comes under the threat of the Black Army and Hem finds more pressing matters of concern outside his bubble. He is forced to strengthen and toughen his will as he looks after the victims of war from neighbouring regions. Through this work and a quite contemplation of the horror's that have afflicted him throughout his young life, Hem comes to realise that he too must contribute to this crusade between Light and Dark. Together with the fiery Zelika, Hem spies on the horrifying child armies of the Nameless that break the will of the men fighting against them through their savage ruthlessness and brutality, and enters he the capital of the Dark: Den Raven itself.
I admit that on first picking up this novel I found it hard to get into- I was too drawn into the world of Maerad to care much for the seemingly petty problems of her "baby brother" (as the novel progress', this thought is eradicated and I thoroughly enjoy the novel). This is one of the reasons the novel receives four stars rather than the five that I otherwise would have awarded. The other reason for this is the mere fact that I found its predecessor, "The Riddle", a more action packed read and so had to place it a rank lower in brilliance.
Croggon writes like a master story teller, slowly building tension and atmosphere as the terrifying nature of a war that threatens to destroy all that is sacred and beautiful in the worlds of her characters. Some of the best passages in the novel are during the time in which Turbansk is besieged by the black army. Here Croggon's writing is full of emotion and vivid description. The air within the city is vibrating with expectation and the sound of the Black Armies braying trumpets, "This lent life a new, vivid urgency" writes Croggon, and Turbansk's beauty seems to "glow with a poignant intensity" in this new climate of fear.
This is a series inspired- as are many others- by the works of Tolkien, the father of modern fantasy. However, Croggon has an originality that many of her contemporaries lack: her novels- and the Crow especially, draw on powerful parallels between the world of the Balance and the Bards and our own. The struggle's and wars that rage in the novel are much like the one's that tear the breast of the earth today; however politics aside, Croggon paints a picture of the ugly demon that is war and its tragedies. Through characters in the novel we see what war can do to ordinary man and child and the strength and resolve with which war's survivors must live in order to carry on their lives in its aftermath.
The Crow is a novel about people and relationships and the great catastrophe of war that even today threatens all that is fair and beautiful in our world. There is a wisdom in the novel that refers can benefit us all if only we cared to take it on board and learn from it: "It may be a question of whether to use the weapons of the Dark in order to worse the Dark...but how can we say that we fight for the Light, if we show ourselves no better than the dark?"