Monday, March 29, 2010

Crispin: The Cross of Lead, by Avi

This is the story of a 13-year-old peasant boy who never knew his name. When his mother dies, though, his priest hints that there is more to the story of the boy's life than he ever knew, and that he does have a name: Crispin. Crispin, now an orphan, must leave the only village he's ever known, as he has been accused of a crime he didn't commit, and declared a "wolf's head", meaning he is no longer considered human and can be killed on sight for a sizable reward. Lonely, confused, and destitute, he leaves town... and encounters a traveling juggler called Bear, who takes Crispin on and helps him discover that besides having a name, he also has a soul. Set in medieval England, the story has undertones of discontent with feudal life, the idea of freedom - both from harsh rulers and from one's past, and generally being one's own person.

It's a good read - quickly engaging the reader, and hard to put down! The reader is left wanting to examine their inner self, and decide if they're living the life they want to live, or merely accepting the "lot in life" they've been dealt. That said, I was a little disappointed by this book when compared to what I remember of another of Avi's books, Newbery Honor The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. To be fair, I read Charlotte Doyle when I was more in line with target audience, and as Crispin hardly knows himself, it's unsurprising that the reader doesn't get to know him very well. But even so, I felt that there was plenty of room for more depth of character in both Crispin and Bear. There are in fact two sequels: Crispin: At the Edge of the World (2006), and Crispin: The End of Time (available June 2010), and it's probable that we will get to know both of them better with these books. I'd happily read the sequel(s), but don't find myself wanting to go out of my way to acquire them.

I give Crispin: The Cross of Lead an 8 on its own.

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