Thursday, 18 February 2010

Crispin and the Phenomenal Review

Go read this book. Right now. Yes, you. Run along.

Ok, now that you've read it, you'll be able to agree with everything I'm about to say about it! :-D Crispin and the Cross of Lead by Avi (Who IS this Avi guy?) is BRILLIANT. Ok, so I'm a Medievalist and the book is set in Medieval England- there, we've gotten my bias out of the way. But being a Medievalist and a stickler (ask my sister) for historically accurate details, this book is absolute tops. Avi goes into much more detail of surroundings and circumstances than Tracy Barrett did in Anna of Byzantium. Anna could have been set in any fancy city and castle my imagination could come up with. Crispin was very firmly set in a crumbling church with a large, colorful, bearded juggling man in the corner, or a close, dank, smelly inn, and the jagged, crowded and damp back streets of a medieval English city.

The story was brilliant as well as the writing. After the death of his mother, Asta's Son (as he is known), a serf, flees into the woods in sadness. Upon his return, he sees the Steward's men (the actual lord of the town has not been present since before his birth) pull down his house, and is told that night after sneaking into the church to see the priest, that he has been declared a Wolf''s Head (Wanted, no longer human, and therefore may be killed and brought in by any person to collect the money) under the pretense that he broke into the manor house and stole a good deal of money. The priest tells him to meet him the next day when he will tell Asta's Son what his name is, and about the cross of lead that the boy now carries that his mother (hint- it has words on it, written by Asta herself). Unfortunately, Asta's son is lead into a trap and in fleeing, comes across the dead body of the Priest (the murder is added onto this alleged theivery).

Crispin- as he learns his name is, runs away, in hopes of finding a city (as the priest said) that he can disappear into long enough to a) survive b) earn the freedom of the city (become a free citizen of the city, no longer beholden to his village lord). In an abandoned city, destroyed in the 1348 outbreak of the Plague (this being set about 12ish years later), he meets Bear- an enormouse bearded juggler who, learning the boy is a Wolf's Head, makes Crispin swear allegiance to him as his new master and takes up his protection and his education in music and juggling. By the way, Bear is also a spy looking for social reform (you know, those people who were featured in the London Riot in 1381).

Anyway, they travel from town to town, earning money and avoiding the Steward, who for some reason is putting a LOT of effort into finding and killing Crispin. Have you figured out why yet? They eventually end up in a large city where people keep recognizing Crispin, and it all eventually comes to a head- but I won't tell you why!

If you love the middle ages, or just like a good medieval story, or want to get away from fantasy for a little while (no magic here!), READ THIS BOOK. Great for girls and boys. Especially boys who still like to play at being knights!

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