Friday, December 21, 2012
Black Spring by Alison Croggon
Inspired by Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, BLACK SPRING reimagines the passionate story in a fantasy 19th century society sustained by wizardry and the vengeance code of vendetta.
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.
Passionate, atmospheric and haunting, BLACK SPRING will stay with readers long after they turn the final page.
I'm a fan of Wuthering Heights, it's a wild and dangerous book so I wasn't sure how I would react to this retelling. However, I set all my preconceptions aside and got stuck in. Conceited Hammel heads north to take up residence as he's got himself into a spot of bother with a married lady in the south. Once there he sets off to greet his landlord Damek but finds himself caught in a storm, attacked by a dog and then treated awfully by Damek and his wife - before finally seeing a violet-eyed ghost in his bedroom mirror. When he returns the next day full of fever he finally listens to his housekeeper who tells him the full story of Damek, Lina and their tragic love.
The town of Elbasa is a tiny and harsh place. The world that Alison Croggon has created is ruled by wizards and who wield terrible powers and keep the peace. Able to turn a man to smoke or make him burn to death from within they are feared by everyone. What with that and the awful and complicated Vendetta which leads to male family members being extinguished in revenge killings it's clear that Elbasa has a lot going on. I quite liked this desperate background - it's a good backdrop to the intensity of Lina and Damek's relationship. Damek is brought into the house as a child and the two of them have a close friendship which gradually deepens into more as they get older. Circumstances pull them apart but when they meet again as adults they have the potential to destroy each other with their love.
Wuthering Heights introduced the original toxic relationship and this is beautifully recreated in Black Spring with added magic and more death than you can shake a stick at. Magic and the Vendetta aside the story sticks quite close to the original so I think how you feel about this book depends upon your feelings about Wuthering Heights. If you adore the original then this won't supplant it by any means. If you've never read it and you enjoy Black Spring then possibly you'll read Wuthering Heights. If you hate the original then this may well remind you why. I find it an impressive modern retelling which captures something of the language, drama, madness, tortured love and agony of the original. Well worth reading.