Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Crow

One way in which blogging about books has changed the way I read is that occasionally, when I'm very behind in my book reviews, I look on my bookshelf for a nice big chunkster that will give me time to catch up! I have been loving the Pellinor series by Alison Croggon, ever since I read Mariel's wonderful review of the first book a year or so ago. These books are targeted at teens, probably because of the age of the protagonists, but the tale is complex and lyrical, and would definitely appeal to high fantasy fans of all ages. I have been taking my time reading through this series because I know I'll be so sad when it's over.

This book shifts the focus from Maerad, the heroine of the first two books, to her younger brother, Hem, who has been separated from her and is living in a different part of the world. As usual, I was a bit resistant to letting a beloved character go and allowing myself to become attached to a new one, whom I did not initially find as interesting. But Croggon's storytelling is so skillful that it didn't take long for me to become engrossed in Hem's story.

Hem is having a difficult time of things, particularly when he's not with his friend and mentor, Saliman, who brought the boy to his beautiful native land of Turbansk. Hem is lonely and feels ridiculed by the students with whom he is studying, as the orphanage where he spent his previous years did not offer much of an education. War is coming, it is clear, and Saliman is often absent. One day Hem saves a young white crow that is being attacked by its siblings, and he finds that he's discovered a true friend and companion.

When Turbansk is attacked by the forces of the Dark, Hem finds himself in a city under siege. Saliman believes the boy has an important role to play in the coming confrontation, but no one is clear as to what that role will be. Hem befriends a fellow orphan, a girl named Zelika who is determined to fight against those who killed her family, and together they flee the falling city in search of a way to combat the Dark forces.

I enjoyed this third installment in this wonderful series, with its action-packed storyline that was punctuated by thoughtful interludes and tantalizing wisps of mysteries yet to be revealed. As a rule, I'm not a huge fan of books about warfare, fantasy or otherwise, but my emotions were invested in these characters, as well as in the welfare of a land that is described in such loving detail. I enjoyed spending time in Hem's company, and his part of the story is a powerful contribution to the overall tale of the fate of Pellinor, but I'm very much looking forward to catching up with Maerad - and seeing the two siblings finally reunited, which of course has to happen in the final volume. This is the best high fantasy series I've read in ages, and I recommend it to all those who love fantasy - and to those who are willing try out something new.

Books in the Pellinor series:
1. The Naming
2. The Riddle
3. The Crow
4. The Singing

The Crow (Book 3 of the Pellinor series) by Alison Croggon (Candlewick Press, 2006)

Also reviewed at:
The Curious Reader: "The characters do not always make the right choices, and their failures are hard to read, but necessary. They grow and learn from their mistakes, and create a bond between reader and character that make the books hard to put down."
Where Troubles Melt Like Lemon Drops: "Alison Croggon's story-telling continues to mature throughout the saga, with this being the darkest installment yet."
Working Title: "One thing this book has that I've really enjoyed in the previous two books is the Appendix notes, set up as if this were a true translation of a lost work only recently discovered."


  1. I think part of what I liked about this one so much was that it deals with warfare in a much more -- intelligent? realistic? way than a lot of fantasy novels do. There's not a lot of glory, though flashes of it, and a lot of hard work and pain. This cover, though, that's a different one from any I've seen yet! I like it.

  2. I agree - it is definitely realistic, but it's not glorifying the violence or being gratuitous about it. It's a part of the story, and she really handles it well. And some of it is so creepy - those child armies - yikes! Mine had a different cover, but I loved this one, so I used it instead. :-)

  3. I know I have to read this series -- I'm trying to finish up some I'm in the middle of before starting new ones....

  4. Beth - I feel the same way. It's hard having so many tantalizing new series out there begging to be read, isn't it?! There are only four to this one, but they are very long. You'll be happy they are, though, because they are so good!


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