Author: Joseph D’Lacey
Publisher: Angry Robot
Page count/size: 432pp
Release Date: 26 March 2013
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin
The first part of an apocalyptic duology, Black Feathers introduces us to two children on the cusp of adulthood searching for the mysterious Crowman; part urban myth, part horror story to scare children at night, The Crowman has been seen by many and appears to be either a saviour or a harbinger of death.
Billions perish as solar flares hit and technology becomes useless. In this novel, which spans two different timelines, we first encounter Sophie and Louis Black, parents to Gordon, who is forced to flee into the woods as a fourteen year old boy, when his parents are taken prisoner by the Ward, the post-apocalyptic authority. We gain insight into Gordon’s hunt for The Crowman, at the same time seeing the past and ‘present’ through the eyes of young Megan. Megan, in a different timeline to that of Gordon, tells Mr Keeper of her dreams of a young boy. On the verge of womanhood, she goes into Covey Wood looking for answers and seeking The Crowman. She will be the first female Keeper and the last ever Keeper, keeping the stories of the Crowman alive. Featuring many flashbacks to the outbreak of the apocalypse, Black Feathers shows us the decay of civilisation and builds on the atmosphere of the book as well as the actual story.
The descriptions of the apocalypse are reminiscent of the current socio-economic climate, and as such, strikes a chord with the reader. The images of a bleak ad savage world are genuinely horrific and D’Lacey switches betwee the perspectives of Gordon and Megan at just the right moment, so we get to know each character intimately. Though a little on the long side, the pace of the novel works, as does this POV switch. The imagery the author uses and the recurrent presence of crows within the narrative further supports the direction the duology is taking. Known as the genre eco-warrior, D’Lacey also uses the book to explore relevant issues affecting our world today in respect of resource and shortages. Gripping stuff and I look forward to the conclusion of this tale.
Interview with Joseph D’Lacey
TD: Tell us a little about Black Feathers.
JDL: It’s an idea that’s been gathering mass for many years.
I can probably trace its roots back to my early teens when I first became aware of the beauty of crows in an art class. But since then my experiences in the natural world – particularly the forgiving nature of the land, its bounteousness and even its ability to heal – reached a kind of critical mass. Combined with the idea of the enigmatic Crowman, a dark messiah of the apocalypse, it became a novel that I couldn’t ignore.
Originally weighing in at over 250K, Angry Robot suggested splitting it into two books. This has allowed me to make it a much more accessible and satisfying read.
TD: How did you get involved with working with Angry Robot?
JDL: I found myself standing next to one of the editors in the bar at a convention late one night. We got talking and I asked if he minded me making an unsolicited submission – I had no agent at the time, so there was no other way through their door. I forget exactly how the conversation went but it was basically a positive answer. I made the submission within a week or two and about 18 months later we signed.
I’m very excited to be working with Angry Robot because I know how much they know about selling H/SF/F. It’s a great publishing house for so many reasons, they’re compact, versatile, manoeuvrable, innovative and they bring a such a positive blend of old wisdom and new ideas to the table.
I visited their offices last week for a meeting and came away feeling both educated and inspired by what I’d learned. I’ve a feeling it will be a very beneficial relationship.
TD: Lately, we’ve been seeing an awful lot of your work emerging with Blood Fugue, Splinters, various anthologies and the Black Feathers duology. How do you manage a heavy workload?
JDL: It’s a funny thing, Theresa – what might appear to be a heavy workload was actually just a bunch of projects happening at the same time by coincidence.
I was very busy when it was time to edit these titles prior to publication but the real work – conception and actualisation – happened a long time ago. Many years in some cases.
To answer the question directly, though, when a heavy workload comes along I’m like anyone else; I panic and then spend many a late night trying to make my deadlines!
TD: So, what’s next on the agenda for you?
JDL: I’d like to say a holiday but that’s not on the cards.
I have two or three full-length fantasies and one stark horror novel in mind next, as well as a couple of long-planned novellas to finish off The Kill Crew quartet. Right now, I’m writing a chapbook for the This Is Horror series.
I recently signed with a new publisher – Andrews UK – who are re-releasing MEAT and Garbage Man in print and as e-books with enhanced content. And, over the next few months, I’ll be rewriting The Book of The Crowman.