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The Crowfield Demon by P. Walsh

Walsh, Pat. The Crowfield Demon. New York: Chicken House/Scholastic, 2012. Print.

Pat Walsh's first novel, The Crowfield Curse, introduced us to William Paynel, his hairy friend and companion- the hob, Brother Walter, the compassionate crippled Brother Snail, and the fay, Shadlok.

William had lost his family in a fire and has been taken in as a servant by Crowfield Abbey where he aids not only Brother Snail but also the vicious one-eyed cook, Brother Martin. It becomes apparent that Will has been gifted with the ability to see beyond the material world around him into the realms of the Old Magic. He is aware of the ancient ways and the spirits which held power before the coming of Christianity. By the end of the first book he has become bound together with Shadlok, the warrior fay, now his protector.

As the story opens the old abbey is showing need of serious repair, repair the monks can ill afford. Suddenly one night there is a violent shaking and parts of the church are lying in rubble. Something ancient and evil has awakened, something long worshipped in the oak grove cut down by the monks when they first built the abbey. Its anger bodes ill for all that belong to the abbey. The battle has been engaged.

Pat Walsh is an archaeologist, and her experience gives reality to the setting and an understanding of the function of the abbey and the vital importance and meaning of the gradual destruction that is taking place. We therefore follow the work of the masons, understand the shock of the unexpected as the abbey crumbles, and feel the importance not only of what is destroyed but also what that destruction may unleash. Pat Walsh's combination of fantasy and history gives the reader another way of comprehending this medieval past.

Will is a strong and engaging character who links together reality and fantasy. He sees the magic, but is not a part of it. He lives and works in the abbey, and yet is detached enough to observe it because he is not part of its religious life. He is the principal character, yet he is an outsider, like the reader. So we accept his “companionship".

Pat Walsh not only brings the period vividly before us but also balances her characters in a realistic way- benevolent and malevolent. Into this balance she inserts the shades between- the sour Prior, the bitter unkind cook and the underlying kindness and honour of a stern character, the warrior fay Shadlok. It is a balance of life. The battle of Good and Evil with its growing tension and bitterness- bitterness echoed in the frigid world outside town and abbey- is balanced by something tender in Will's relationship with the hob (a brilliant comic character), with good thoughtful Brother Snail, and the controlled frosty, but totally supporting and caring warrior fay, Shadlok.

The Crowfield Demon is a gripping tale that combines history and fantasy in a way to help young readers  understand something of the way people lived and thought in the far past. Detail and vivid description, and a strong story line, conjure up a visual experience as well as an understanding.

Highly recommended:  4 out of 4 stars
Reviewer:  Andrea Deakin

Andrea has been involved with books since she was class librarian in Primary School, Student Librarian in Grammar School, student librarian for the Education Faculty when she was a student, and school librarian in schools both in England and , except for the first two years in Canada where she arrived in 1959, in Canada. When she retired from teaching ( English and History) she was invited to review in February 1971, and continued to review for press, radio, and finally on the Internet ( Deakin Newsletter from Okanagan College) until she retired in 2011. Forty years seemed sufficient- although she still cannot keep her nose out of good children's and YA fare.