Black Feathers by Joseph D’Lacey
Just finished reading Black Feathers by Joseph D’Lacey. Black Feathers is both a pre and post apocalyptic story told by Gordon Black and Megan Maurice. Well, really, it’s the story of Gordon but it’s being told by Megan. Okay, let me start again!
At the start of the story we are introduced to Gordon literally as he is about to be born, under strange circumstances – snow blowing outside and a black crow ominously watching the proceedings from outside the bedroom window. Gordon’s birth coincides, or is the catalyst perhaps, with the earth falling into decline. As he grows in age the world’s descent seems to speed up, bad weather, starvation, disease and the general spiralling downwards of civilisation as a whole. At the same time a large corporation called The Ward have started to control/police everything. They appear out of the blue to question people – who are then mysteriously never seen again. As this story is starting to unfold we learn of Megan. Set years in the future, in a world which has reverted to what feels like a much more primitive era, Megan is, following a strange vision of the Crowman, chosen to become a keeper. Keeper’s walk the path of black feathers, they are used to keep the tale of the Crowman alive and prevent people from forgetting what came ‘before’. I suppose in this way Megan is actually telling us Gordon’s tale. Both Gordon and Megan will face trials and suffer much as they tread their chosen path in this coming of age novel. Both are in search of the truth about the Crowman and whether or not he is good or evil.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this novel. I had a notion it might be horror but that was definitely not the case. There are certainly parts of the tale that are harrowing but I would describe this more as dark fantasy. On the face of it there doesn’t appear to have actually been a great deal taking place. Gordon is separated from his family by the Ward and sets off on his search for knowledge and truth and Megan is chosen to become a keeper and is likewise separated from her family while she learns the story of the past. And, yet in spite of this there doesn’t actually feel like a lack of action on this journey. In fact it grips you quite firmly from the outset with it’s story time voice. Along the way we meet other characters who serve to demonstrate the hardships that both protagonists suffer. There are still some characters who will help and assist and have kept a sense of moral obligation but these feel to be equalled if not out numbered by the characters who have become much more base as they lost their veneer of civilisation.
You can’t help having protective feelings for Gordon and Megan and wanting to help them in their ordeals although in reality they have both been ‘chosen’ because they are capable of handling such things.
In terms of criticisms there is an element to the story of ‘treat the earth badly and bad things will happen in return’. Frankly I don’t mind that there’s a message in the story as it’s not too preachy and feels more like it uses the possibility of such events taking place as a means for setting the story rather than as a stick to beat the reader with . I did feel like there were a few occasions where the story dragged a little but this wasn’t enough to make me stop reading and in fact for the most part the story did keep me racing along in anticipation of the outcome.
The end of the book of course is not the end of the tale and so you will undoubtedly have remaining questions but No.2 is already available to satisfy that need.
On the whole I thought this was quite a gripping tale. I enjoyed the author’s writing style and thought he made an excellent job of setting the scene for the next installment which I look forward to reading very soon!