Isolated abbey comes under fresh attack from evil forces

John Millen
John Millen |

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The Crowfield Demon
By Pat Walsh
Published by Chicken House
ISBN 978 1 906427 63 4

The Crowfield Demon is the follow-up to Pat Walsh's historical fantasy novel, The Crowfield Curse, one of the most original and thrilling Young Fiction debuts of 2010. Curse was shortlisted for both the prestigious Times Children's Fiction Competition and the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize in Britain.

The new novel continues the mysteries exposed in Curse and takes them to a new and darker level. Demon is very much a continuation of Curse, and readers coming to the new story will be a bit lost at times if they don't know the characters and events of the first book.

Walsh sets the action of her first and second novels in a tightly released setting. Curse took us to mid-14th-century England, to Crowfield Abbey, an isolated religious community found in the middle of a dark and forbidding forest. Demon brings us back to this confined locale, and the coldness and harshness add much to the atmosphere and suspense in the book.

Teenage orphan William is serving the few monks left in the religious order of Crowfield Abbey. It's a hard and miserable life. Will's friends, a bushy-tailed hob from the forest and a fay warrior who has decided to stay at the abbey after the death of his master, help the much put-upon servant boy get through his days. After the events of Curse, things at the abbey should have settled down into a dull but regular routine. But they haven't. A new evil is stirring within the walls of the abbey.

The monks of Crowfield know about the magical forces alive in the forest around the abbey, and ancient magic and Christianity exist tolerably side by side. But suddenly the elves in the forest become restless, and a massive crack appears in the walls of the church. Other parts of the abbey begin to crumble for no reason. Stonemasons are sent for and repairs begin.

William is given the job of lifting floor tiles from a side chapel to use in repairing the main church. He unearths a strange box covered with mysterious warnings and symbols. When he opens the box, he does not realise that he has unleashed a demon that will wreak havoc in Crowfield and eventually turn on young Will himself. Can the Christian faith of the Crowfield monks defeat the ancient demon that Will has unwittingly set free?

Walsh creates a wonderful story setting with her detailed and spooky depiction of medieval Crowfield Abbey. But readers should not fall into the trap of thinking they are going to read a historical novel. Demon is an eerie thriller that will make your hair stand on end. Walsh's cool, no-nonsense style of storytelling fits her tale perfectly, with the final fight between the forces of good and evil a real breath-stopper.

Are there more gripping tales lurking in the shadows of Crowfield? Let's hope so, because the first two have been outstanding.