Anna spent her childhood with Damek and her volatile foster sister Lina, daughter of the Lord of the village. Lina has magical powers, and in this brutal patriarchal society women with magical powers are put to death as babies. Lina’s father, however, refuses to kill her but when vendetta explodes in their village and Lina’s father dies, their lives are changed forever. Their new guardian Masko sends Anna away and reduces Lina to the status of a servant. Damek—mad with love for Lina—attempts to murder Masko, then vanishes for several years. Anna comes home five years later to find Lina about to marry a pleasant young farmer, and witnesses Damek’s vengeful return and its catastrophic consequences.
I need to begin this review with a little bit of a confession. I have read Wuthering Heights, it was a wonderful experience in my first year of uni – a group of us used to get together on a Sunday afternoon and drink tea and eat toast and take it in turns to read aloud whichever book had been set that week on my friend’s English Lit module. That was 12 years ago though and the very few bits of the book I can remember are as a result of watching the tv adaptation with Tom Hardy in it rather than from the book. I’m therefore not going to be able to talk properly about this book in regards to Wuthering Heights, if you want to read about this I suggest you look at Sarah’s review at My Favourite Books or Erin’s review at Oxford Erin.
The book begins with Hammel narrating, he’s escaping the city for a while and visits the Northern Plateau to do this. He only narrates for the first 40 or so pages and then the story is taken over by Anna who along with Lina takes responsibility for narrating the majority of the book. I found the book pretty difficult to get into until the narrative duties passed to Anna, I found Hammel a difficult character to take to and there were plot points I found I wasn’t really sure I was understanding.
Once the narrative switched to Anna telling Hammel the story of the people he’d already encountered and the ways of the Northern Plateau I found the book a far more gripping and interesting read. The book is still not an easy read, the vendetta that plagues the Northern Plateau makes for pretty miserable reading and the descriptions of the powers held and punishments exacted by the wizards weren’t always for the faint-hearted.
Black Spring is not a book filled with likeable characters who appeal to the reader. With the exception of Anna, and her mother, most of the characters are downright awful yet I found myself completely drawn into their world and wanting to know more about them and try to understand them. I think this is testament to Croggon’s writing style, a lesser writer wouldn’t have encouraged me to read on and I’d have just dismissed them all as dreadful and put the book down.
I didn’t love this book but I know a lot of people will. I’ve looked at the other books that Croggon has written and love the sound of them so I shall definitely be reading more from her.
Black Spring is published by Walker in the UK from 3rd January 2013. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.