“Black Feathers” Joseph D’Lacey

Joseph D’Lacey’s book Black Feathers is set part in a world just sideways to our own, and partly in the future of that world. The “present day” parts follow Gordon as he grows up to the cusp of puberty then has to learn to live in & deal with the dystopian & crumbling society of 2013’s Britain – a world that’s like but not like our own, where the sinister Ward have taken over the role that the police & the government should be playing. The future follows Megan, again a child on the verge of becoming an adult. Her poor but idyllic sounding childhood ends as she’s called to be apprenticed to Mr Keeper, a shaman-like figure who remembers the story of the Black Dawn & the coming of the Bright Day. Gordon & Megan’s stories are interlinked – most prominently through the figure of the Crowman. Venerated, worshipped and feared in Megan’s day, he’s just whispered about as a shadowy figure in Gordon’s time and somehow Gordon is linked to him. There’s something dreamlike about the story, which seems appropriate to both Megan’s initiation into mysteries & Gordon’s search for the Crowman. It’s a dark & twisted dream, tho – gruesome and unpleasant things happen – and it’s not clear if ultimately it’s going to come to a good or a bad end.

I’m … not sure what I think of this book. I started off really liking it, but somewhere along the way I forgot that it was the first part of a series (a duology I think) and then it just kinda stopped. There’s not much in the way of resolution to either story thread and yet I wasn’t really left wanting to find out what happened next – I’d sort of run out of enthusiasm for it. Like somehow I thought the idea only had legs for one book’s length and now I’m left thinking “oh, there’s another whole book to fill?”.

There’s stuff I did like – the ambiguity of the Crowman for instance. The things the characters say imply ultimately he (it?) is a force for or personification of something good or at least mostly beneficial even if not in ways that humanity can always comprehend. But the way the narrative shows him to the reader is as much darker and twisted, I’m not sure if there’s anything “good” about the Crowman at all. But equally he’s set against the Ward, who are definitely not good at all – they’re a menacing caricature of secret police that don’t seem to have any redeeming features at all. So this is not a face off between good & evil, but it is a face off with evil.

But overall, I’m not sure what I think. And I suspect by the time the next book is published next year I’ll’ve forgotten about the series.