Pages - 286
Published by Walker Books on the 3rd of January 2013
After the last long winter, I needed to get as far away from the city as I possibly could. My life there filled me with a weariness of disgust; I was tired of endless conversations in lamp-lit cafes with over-educated aesthetes like myself, tired of my apartment with its self-consciously tasteful artworks and its succession of witty visitors, of the endless jostling for status among the petty literati, the sniping envy and malicious gossip.
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.
It's no big secret that I loathed Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. I don't think a classic has ever seriously depressed me more. So with trepidation I began reading Black Spring, keeping my fingers crossed it would greatly improve on the original, otherwise I knew I wouldn't be reading very much of it. Thankfully, this book was soooo much better. With the inclusion of witches and wizards, giving it a fantasy appeal, this book made a much disliked novel really exciting to read. The plot doesn't really deviate that much from the original but the characters are just so much more interesting and likable. It still has that strong Gothic richness to it, yet it loses the terrible depressive nature of the original, giving it much more vibrancy.
The book has two narrators. The first narrator Hammel, comes across as a pompous twit. I struggled to read the chapters in his voice, because he was just so annoying and droll. Surprisingly I felt the same anger that Damek felt towards him. However when Anna took over the narrative the story really improved. I really liked her voice - she was vibrant yet wise; obviously affected by everything she had suffered. Her voice was clear and concise, which made it a pleasure to read her tale. From her words, you could tell how much she loved Lina and Damek, even though they continued to disobey the rules of society.
Lina came across as a spoilt, selfish yet highly spirited child who had a wicked wild side just brimming beneath her surface. and perhaps she was, bearing in mind she was the only child of a rich land owner. She would eventually get her own way even after punishment - she knew how to control a situation. The fact that she was believed to be a witch frightened a lot of people and they would give in to her requests. It is interesting to note how valued and honoured the wizards of the land are, yet all witches would be burned at the stake. In the end it appears that Anna is stronger than the wizard, which surprises many. I much preferred Damek in this book to Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, although his mistreatment of Lina's daughter was disgraceful.
I can't review this book without discussing the vendetta that plagued the country. It was truly horrible - that one person would be killed and a chain of murders would then continually occur to avenge each previous death. Towns would lose every male relative as the murders continued until only the women were left. They all knew they would die and I found it so sad and heart wrenching to read about.
Once I moved past Hammel's part in the book, I really began to enjoy the story. Anyone who can turn my most hated read into an excellent enjoyable book is definitely an author to be explored further. I have never read any of Alison Croggon's fantasy novels but after reading this and really enjoying her style I will definitely look into her other books.