And then came The Crowfield Curse, by Pat Walsh, a book I enjoyed immensely. It's set in a medieval monastery in winter, where a young orphan boy named William works hard in return for meager food and a cold place to sleep. The forest lies close around...and in the forest there are Things. One of these is a friendly Hob, rescued by William from an iron trap and now his friend. But there is also a forbidden place, where something strange and horrible happened years before. A place where the monks buried a murdered angel.
Drawn to that place, an unlikely pair of travellers have come to the monastery--a leper, once a great musician, with a companion who isn't human...
And Will finds himself caught in the middle of a struggle between the forces of dark and light, with only his own good heart, and the friendship of the friendly Hob, to help him raise the angel from the dead and set things right.
Yes, there really is an angel, which took me aback somewhat. But Walsh manages to make her angel a believable part of a world in which there are also fairies. The story was both familiar (the good vs the bad factions of the Other People), but at the same time, beautifully original. The supernatural is an integral part of the cold winter story, but Walsh sets the fantastic most satisfyingly into a nicely authentic medieval world. And on top of that, William and his Hob friend are characters to take to one's heart. I found it especially pleasing that William is chosen to play his part mainly because he is warm-hearted, genuinely good and well-intentioned.
A great one for readers of 10 years old on up to enjoy during the dark winter nights! That being said, it's not tremendously Action Packed, so I think the contemplative sort of middle grade reader is the natural audience for this one, as opposed to those that like non-stop Happenings. The other natural audience for this one being readers like me, for whom this book was a lovely treat.
Here's another review, at The Book Aunt, that includes excerpts.
The sequel, The Crowfield Demon, comes out in the UK this April--thank goodness for the Book Depository and its free shipping! Here's the blurb, from the author's website:
"In this second Crowfield adventure, it is March 1348. Evil lurks in Crowfield Abbey and the building is starting to collapse. Fay creatures have fled the surrounding forest in terror.
Repairs begin and William is given the job of lifting floor tiles in a haunted side chapel. There he finds a box from an earlier pagan time containing a small wooden bowl, covered with strange warnings and symbols.
The bowl is cursed and a hideous demon is unleashed within the Abbey’s walls, that will wreak unspeakable havoc. Can Will and his friends summon help in time or is it the end of Crowfield forever?"