Monday, March 25, 2019

The Crowfield Curse and The Crowfield Demon

Pat Walsh’s The Crowfield Curse and The Crowfield Demon are two novels for young readers that take us back to the Middle Ages for a tale of the mysterious supernatural circumstances surrounding a monk’s abbey, the fey creatures nearby, and a young orphaned boy that the monks have taken on as a servant. Jack and Kate take a journey into a gentler variety of genre this month in an effort to understand what's up with the youth.
How is learning to play the flute a lot like growing up? Isn't teaching monks that the fey folk are on their side something that the devil would do? Just how bad was the medieval diet? All these questions and more will be explored during this episode of Bad Books for Bad People.
BBfBP theme song by True Creature 
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  1. I think you hit on a lot of the reasons why the Special Orphan Child trope can grate (especially when the reveal of the protagonist's parentage is "they were the best wizards of their generation" rather than the His Dark Material's "it's these assholes actually, they're just busy with their adult psychoses and weren't interested in parenting you", or "you'll probably never know, maybe that's ok" as in Taran Wanderer) but in addition to other things it does serve the pretty important literary function of preventing the child protagonist from appealing to a higher authority. It's like "why don't the cellphones work" in a horror movie, but since children are often afforded so much less agency, and generally have a lot less power than adults of their class/station in life do, you've got to do more explaining as to why child characters can't or don't just go tell an adult. Making the parents into characters who are involved in the plot can be a good solution for some stories, and there are other solutions like physical separation from a parent, but making the kid an orphan is a pretty efficient solution to the whole thing.

    I think it can also be a literalized metaphor for readers who are beginning to grapple with this idea of "who am I going to be as a person who is independent from my parents?"

    1. If you ever feel like dipping into YA horror again for the show, I'd recommend the "Monster Blood Tattoo" series by D. M. Cornish. Despite having the worst possible title, it's got all kinds of good stuff in it that I think would be right up your alley:

      -Victorian monster hunters with artificial organs stuffed into them
      -an order of militant lamplighters
      -a boy christened with a girl's name
      -sailors with pockmark scars from the spray of the "Vinegar Sea"
      -Barges powered by giant artificial hearts grown in boxes and grafted onto propellers
      -a fashion for tall, narrow chimneys to keep monsters from climbing down them

      It's a little bit like if Charles Dickens was writing Bloodborne for children, right down to chemically treated greatcoats as armor.

    2. This is truly a fortuitous set of replies!

      I think you're right on with the Special Orphan Child stuff.

      And D. M. Cornish's name sounded familiar, so I checked turns out I have those books in storage, unread. No idea which bargain book sale I picked them up at, but I have retrieved them from the depths and they are now in the immediate reading queue.

    3. Oh nice! The first book does have one of those abrupt YA series endings, but it moves along at a good pace and the other two seem to be of similar length.