The Crow Folk by Mark Stay #BookReview #GuestPost #BlogTour

 

Faye Bright always felt a little bit different. And today she’s found out why. She’s just stumbled across her late mother’s diary which includes not only a spiffing recipe for jam roly-poly, but spells, incantations, runes and recitations . . . a witch's notebook.

And Faye has inherited her mother’s abilities. 

Just in time, too. The Crow Folk are coming. Led by the charismatic Pumpkinhead, their strange magic threatens Faye and the villagers. Armed with little more than her mum's words, her trusty bicycle, the grudging help of two bickering old ladies, and some aggressive church bellringing, Faye will find herself on the front lines of a war nobody expected.

For fans of Lev Grossman and Terry Pratchett comes this delightful novel of war, mystery and a little bit of magic . . .

I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Crow Folk today and thrilled to be sharing an exclusive first look at a fabulous 'Ten Things About Me' video from Mark Stay. Huge thanks to Mark and to Simon & Schuster and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my digital copy of the novel.


Before I share my review, here's that video which also gives a wonderful taster of what the The Crow Folk is about.



And now to tempt you further, here's why I loved the book...

It's fitting that a novel which so wonderfully recalls the vibrant magic of childhood stories should open with a young woman finding a book - Wynter's Book of Rituals and Magic - in a trunk of old knickknacks. Kathryn Wynter was Faye Bright's mother's maiden name and she left her daughter an inscription, To my darling Faye, for when the time is right.'
The time is definitely right because something strange is happening in the village of Woodville and it's not just that the bell ringers have been told to silence their bells for the duration of the war. With the exception of Worzel Gummidge and the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, I've always thought scarecrows are rather sinister and the Crow Folk who have left their posts and come to life here do little to dispel that opinion.
Comparisons with Worzel are inevitable but there are also little hints of Dad's Army and the wartime witchery of Bedknobs and Broomsticks as Faye begins to suspect her mother was indeed a witch and that she may have powers herself. She isn't the only witch in the village but Charlotte Southill and Philomena Teach seem reluctant to divulge their secrets, much to her exasperation. Faye is a redoubtable young woman and is an immensely likeable character whose constant sense of frustration is almost palpable. Her attempt to join the Last Defence Volunteers was thwarted, her father changes the subject whenever she tries to find out more about her mum and now Charlotte and Mrs Teach keep trying to avoid answering her questions while squabbling with one another.
Woodville is almost the epitome of a wartime English village with its church, pubs and residents who are learning to live with blackouts, rationing and Spitfires flying overhead, scaring the horses. It's populated with an eccentric bunch of characters and one of the highlights of The Crow Folk is undoubtedly getting to know them better. Faye's father, Terrence is a delight - I wish I could reveal more about a particular scene he is involved in which is one of my favourites in the book but you'll have to read it to find out. As with all the characters, he really is brought to life; for all their eccentric quirks, these are real people and even the scarecrows (especially Suky) are thoughtfully developed to become more than just animated straw. Magic is woven throughout The Crow Folk but this fantasy is grounded in reality and it's also a bittersweet tale of grief, loss and hope. 
This is magical realism at its most captivating with the evocative wartime setting accentuating the nostalgic spirit of the book. Although Mark Stay's coming-of-age tale is so irresistibly redolent of childhood stories, there is enough innuendo here to give The Crow Folk a mischievous edge that prevents it from becoming childish. It is humorous throughout but there is also a sense of danger - the scarecrow leader, Pumpkinhead is particularly menacing - and mystery as Faye desperately tries to figure out a way to save the village. 
The Crow Folk is an ebullient celebration of storytelling which never forgets that to truly care about what happens in a novel, you need to be invested in its characters. Faye, Terrence, Charlotte, Philomena, the wonderful Bertie Butterworth and the rest of the villagers are the joyous, curious beating heart of the book; I can't wait to find out what magical adventures await them - and whether they will receive another visit from the fabulous Vera Fivetrees in Babes in the Wood: The Witches of Woodville 2. 

The Crow  Folk is published by Simon & Schuster, purchasing links can be found here but please consider supporting independent bookstores, either by buying directly or ordering from bookshop.org


About the Author
Mark Stay co-wrote the screenplay for Robot Overlords which became a movie with Sir  
Ben Kingsley and Gillian Anderson, and premiered at the 58th London Film Festival. He is  co-presenter of the Bestseller Experiment podcast and has worked in bookselling and  
publishing for over twenty-five years. He lives in Kent, England, with his family and a trio  of retired chickens. He blogs and humblebrags over at markstaywrites.com.

Comments

  1. Karen, this is awesome! Amazing review and wonderful video from Mark. Thank you so much for supporting the tour x

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