book review, fantasy

Crowman by David Rae

Stylistic, symbolic and absorbing, Crowman takes you to a dark fantasy world where the sun is held captive in a box.

Utas, a textile trader, is fleeing from the city of the sun with his near comatose daughter, Alaba. The dark lord, Vatu, who holds the sun in a box and only lets it shine for one day a year, wants Alaba, and will not stop hunting her.

On their travels they meet Erroi, a mysterious fighter, who can move through dreams. His assistance proves invaluable when bandits waylay them, and a young boy, Mukito, joins them after Erroi’s quick blade dispatches the threat.

Unfortunately, a run in with a naive and trusting soldier, named Zintoa, results in Utas and Alaba’s capture and return to the city of the sun.

When darkness rules the land, is there any hope for such disparate souls?

What can I say about Crowman? It is like a myth that I’ve known my whole life, whispered in the cry of birds and the sound of the surf against the sea, but which I have only now read for the first time.

The language is spare and beautiful at the same time; metaphor becoming literal in a world shrouded in darkness, where age is counted in the number of dawns witnessed.

The characters at times appear as avatars, speaking in riddles that could hint at something profound, or pretentious. However, there is so much humanity in them that, despite the strange world and the stylized narrative, it is hard not to care for them all, even secondary characters who are mean spirited or keen to see the protagonists come to harm.

The plotting is simple, but in a world where darkness is personified, travel through mirrors is instant and a man’s body and spirit can work independently of each other, much of the delight is in discovering a new element to the story and going along for the journey, deciphering the layers as each new scene is presented.

I can honestly say that I had no idea where the story was going until very near the end of the book, which is unusual for me, but as the narrative took me gently by the hand and led me along its merry path without any tricks or convolutions, I was very happy to venture into the unknown with it.

My favorite part of the book were the scenes depicting the farming of food, from sowing to harvest, in the one day of sunshine the world was allowed a year. It is such a spectacular thought, depicted with vivid attention to detail of the natural world (and being a David Rae novel, insects are given their due), layered with rich symbolism, that I wish I had thought it up and written it myself.

Rae’s debut novel is a triumph. I can’t wait to read more of his books.

I award Crowman

Crowman is available for $5.11 ebook and $14.99 print book on Amazon.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Read my review of Midnight in the Garden of Naughty and Nice here.

Read my review of Ruth and John Getting to Know You here.

7 thoughts on “Crowman by David Rae”

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