Scholastic Australia – Chicken House
Target audience: 9+
Category: Junior Fantasy
A Bug in a Book review by Scott Chambers
The wait is over. The much anticipated sequel to The Crowfield Curse is as close as your nearest online bookstore. Unless, of course, you enjoy the walk to a non-virtual store (if only because it takes you past more cafés). In The Crowfield Demon Pat Walsh combines archaeological knowledge, impeccable research, and imaginative writing style, to bring 14th Century England to life – right in the palms of your hands. As if it wasn’t bad enough being an orphan in 1348, forced to live an austere life in Crowfield Abbey under the watchful eyes of Prior Ardo and the other monks, William Paynel discovers that the church – his home of the past 2 years – is in danger of falling down around his ears. But that’s not the worst of it. If he’s to believe the growing number of signs, the reason that the church is falling to pieces is because a demon trapped in its foundations is beginning to stir. No thanks to a number of furtive blood sacrifices being made by the crone Dame Alys in Foxtwist Wood. The sense of growing evil soon becomes palpable and even fey creatures of the surrounding forest begin fleeing to the west for safety.
When the church finally collapses, Will is roped into helping the Weforde stonemasons with repairs. While lifting tiles from the floor of the old chapel he uncovers an ornately decorated oak chest containing a bowl with strange symbols carved into its base. With the help of some friends, Shadlok, the hob and Brother Snail, a little digging of the detective kind reveals that the site of the chapel was once a sacred grove where the Hunter’s Oak grew, a place for pagan worship of the demon Raum, a fallen angel. One hundred years before, an ancestor of Sir Robert of Weyforde – a powerful alchemist – brought an end to the demon’s previous reign of terror by successfully binding it to a ceremonial bowl which was then buried beneath the church.
A string of increasingly bad events following the collapse of the church raises suspicions that the demon has somehow freed itself, and is rapidly gaining power. When all efforts to destroy the cursed bowl fail, it seems that the only hope for salvation of the residents of Weforde and Crowfield Abbey is to convince Sir Robert to summon the demon and bind him once more to the bowl. But the price for Sir Robert’s cooperation may well prove too high. Meanwhile, the sleep of more and more villagers is troubled by nightmares implying that Will is in league with the demon. With friends turning against them left right and centre, Will and Shadlok are left to face this ageless evil alone. When at last they are lured into a trap and ambushed by Raum – now fully returned to his former power – all seems lost. All that stands between Will and eternal damnation is hope and the pureness of his soul – not, on the face of it, very formidable weapons.
Fast paced and thought provoking, this story is bound to capture (and play merrily with) the imaginations of competent readers. Pat Walsh has created very realistic and likeable characters and maintains just the right mix of action, suspense, humour and historical detail. Undoubtedly destined for at least as much praise as the highly acclaimed Crowfield Curse.