Title: Black Spring
Author: Alison Croggon
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Acquired Via: Around the World ARC Tours
Release Date (US): August 27, 2013
In a savage land sustained by wizardry and ruled by vendetta, Lina is the enchanting but willful daughter of a village lord. She and her childhood companion, Damek, have grown up privileged and spoiled, and they’re devoted to each other to the point of obsession. But Lina’s violet eyes betray her for a witch, and witches are not tolerated in a brutally patriarchal society. Her rank protects her from persecution, but it cannot protect her from tragedy and heartbreak. An innocent visitor stands witness to the devastation that ensues as destructive longing unleashes Lina’s wrath, and with it her forbidden power. Whether drawn by the romantic, the magical, or the gothic, readers will be irresistibly compelled by the passion of this tragic tale.
Inspired by the gothic classic Wuthering Heights, this stunning new fantasy from the author of The Books of Pellinor is a fiercely romantic tale of betrayal and vengeance.
Promises of a willful daughter, wizardry, and vendettas brought me to Black Spring by Alison Croggon. I've never read Wuthering Heights because everyone says I should, but the idea of a retelling excited me nonetheless. Sadly, I found Black Spring to be a very dull and unsatisfying read. I was nearly convinced to give up on the book about five pages in, but I enforced my fifty page rule. Thankfully, the narration of poor little rich boy, Hammel, did not last long. The majority of the story was told by Anna, the best friend and servant of the doomed Lina.
Though Black Spring centered on Lina's life, Anna was the only character worth a damn in the novel. Lina was a tantrum-happy, spoiled brat who treated everyone around her poorly, and never once did she draw the slightest bit of sympathy from me. Her foster brother and soulmate, Damek, was uninteresting in the beginning and progressed into something much worse. I have never in my life been so torn between indifference and hatred for characters. They were awful to the extreme and deserved the misery in life that came to them. Seriously, it was all of their own construction. Anna was kind and good enough to put up with her beastly friends, and I hope there is a special place for her in literary Heaven since she abstained from drowning Lina and/or Damek.
The world-building was an even bigger disappointment. Yes, it was partially from my own expectations, but I felt very misled by the synopsis. The wizardry in the novel was minimal - it was just some cranky, evil geezer named Ezra wandering around the story, asserting his will and enforcing The Lore. The threat of his wrath loomed over Lina and her family, but that's about it. When he did act, it was underwhelming. As for the vendetta, I began thinking it was some dark and mysterious curse that was plaguing the Northern villages as I read Black Spring. Nope, it was just a blood feud where opposing families take turns killing each others' men until they're all dead or the king and wizards say they can stop. Even that managed to be dull. There was an ominous feeling about looming events in the book that kept me reading, but it sputtered out. I just couldn't care enough about Lina.
I know I've been ranty about Black Spring, but the novel is not completely without merit. I am sure that fans of gothic or Victorian literature will eat up the story that read true to the time period it's paying homage to, but it definitely was not for me. To be fair, I hated Jane Eyre the first time that I read it, and it later became a favorite. Maybe Black Spring is something I would have to acquire a taste for as well.
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To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received an advance copy of the book briefly for reviewing purposes through Around the World ARC Tours in exchange for an honest review. The book was likely provided to the tour by the publisher or author, which has in no way affected the outcome of my review. All opinions expressed are rambling, honest, and completely my own.