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Monday, September 9, 2013

Review: 'Black Spring'

By Alison Croggon
YA fantasy
August 2013
Candlewick Press
ISBN: 978-0-7636-6009-3

Wuthering Heights is one of those seminal works that can sweep away a reader. Often, the earlier a reader discovers this work, the stronger a hold the story of doomed lovers Catherine and Heathcliff can be.

So it’s no wonder that Alison Croggon was inspired by the Emily Bronte novel in writing Black Spring, about doomed lovers Lina and Damek, for a YA audience. The pair live in a harsh European setting in an inhospitable land, away from the softer, more sophisticated life in the south of their land. Wizards live among them, vendetta is a way of life and these willful children are determined to live as they prefer, society be damned.

Croggon’s novel follows the same narrative as the Bronte novel, from a stranger meeting a deranged Heathcliff, um, Damek, and seeing the ghost of Catherine, um, Lina, to the inevitable ending.

Added to the tale is a touch of paranormal. Lina is a witch, which usually means a death warrant, but she is protected by the king. When her father dies and his estate is given to a rough toadie, the local wizard plays a role. A highly structured vendetta that lasts for years showcases how noble the condemned men who have killed in vengeance are (yes, really) and, in a last-minute poke, is supposed to show why the nobility are above all that.

Croggon excels in creating a highly effective atmosphere of overwrought emotion that is as foundational to her setting as the harsh landscape. She also pays full homage to the novel and characters that inspired her own work.

Black Spring raises the same reservations that Wuthering Heights does. Although Lina despairs of being loved for herself and not coveted as a possession, and the society in which she lives gives women little chance of that happening, the idea that it is only as half of a couple that one truly is alive does not bolster this independent spirit. But for those readers who think Bella’s love of Edward is the height of attainment, Black Spring will fit their interest for more in the same vein.

©2013 All Rights Reserved CompuServe Books Reviews and reprinted with permission

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