Inspired by Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, BLACK SPRING reimagines the passionate story in a fantasy 19th century society sustained by wizardry and the vengeance code of vendetta.
Anna spent her childhood with Damek and her volatile foster sister Lina, daughter of the Lord of the village. Lina has magical powers, and in this brutal patriarchal society women with magical powers are put to death as babies. Lina’s father, however, refuses to kill her but when vendetta explodes in their village and Lina’s father dies, their lives are changed forever. Their new guardian Masko sends Anna away and reduces Lina to the status of a servant. Damek—mad with love for Lina—attempts to murder Masko, then vanishes for several years. Anna comes home five years later to find Lina about to marry a pleasant young farmer, and witnesses Damek’s vengeful return and its catastrophic consequences.
Passionate, atmospheric and haunting, BLACK SPRING will stay with readers long after they turn the final page.
I just want to take this book everywhere with me and love on it and write in the margins and love it as much as I’ve loved my copy of Wuthering Heights because it literally took everything I love with the story I love most and combined it all in splendour.
So, first, forewarning, Wuthering Heights is one of the classics that everyone claims to have read but haven’t/or they read it once and hated it. (Protip, very few people like Wuthering Heights during their first read. It’s one of my favourite books ever and I didn’t like it until the second time through). Black Spring is very much like Wuthering Heights so if you’ve never read it or hated it (give it another go!) I would approach this with caution.
I’ve been a fan of Croggon’s work since the Pellinor series (which I still fervently tout as being the closest thing to a YA Lord of the Rings in terms of scope and worldbuilding). So, when I found out about this book not only was I ecstatic, I also impatiently bought a UK copy because I didn’t want to wait for the US release date (which is in August, if you’re curious). I had some trepidation because Wuthering Heights! It’s so easy to ruin because it’s such a passionate story! But I was enamoured with the fantasy setting she was placing it against, and I trust Croggon’s worldbuilding (obviously), so I was hopeful in going into this story.
And I was definitely not disappointed. The story has been crafted in about the same way as Wuthering Heights in that it begins with a narrator completely uninvolved in the story. Hammel is from the south and is travelling to the primitive forbidding northern lands to get away from it all. True to WH, he goes to visit the landowner of the house he’s renting and if you know WH, you know who he meets. (wink wink nudge nudge).
Now, I am one of those people who adore all the characters in WH even though the majority who read WH can’t stand them and find them to all be whiny and selfish (and they are! Kind of. It’s part of what makes them so brilliant). The characters in Black Spring are all very true to the WH counterparts. This is a retelling at its finest. It retains the original story in spirit but has set it against a completely new backdrop (proving how transcendent the story itself is, I suppose.) This isn’t like a Deathless retelling in which the story is new but holds the essence of the old story, Black Spring follows the same narrative style and story as WH, it just gives a new tinge to it with its setting. Which, I personally think was the proper way to go about this, because WH is such a complicated story that changing too much would ruin it.
She did cut Hindley and Hareton and the majority of the second generation plot. I, personally, don’t mind that because I care less about that plot (as do most WH readers… so it was a good decision).
Black Spring is set in Elbasa, a harsh village in the northern lands where wizards and blood magic rule underneath the harsh vendetta. The vendetta is this cruel, dark, thing that’s happening outside the basic core of the plot. I don’t want to spoil how it works but there’s a lot of death and most of the village dies. And it’s a beautiful concept. Lina is a witch and should have been put to death because witches are not suffered to live in the north, but she’s also of the royal blood and thus escapes her fate.
What I am so in love with (aside from the setting which is magnificent) is how Croggon used magic to explain and to further Lina’s wild spirit and mad nature. It was… kind of genius, actually because it gave it this twist that was just amazing. (I think it also makes Lina a bit more likeable than Cathy… but only a bit). Damek was perfect (yes, I am also one of those people who love Heathcliff without shame. So.), that’s… that’s all I have to say just that she handled all the characters so perfectly.
The plot was a little scrunched up because Croggon chose to cut out the second generation, and I do wish that we could have seen more of the vendetta and the world building. However, this isn’t really a story for a vast amount of world building because it is so self contained and I recognise that. I appreciate the world building that did happen and I feel as if it was just enough for contain the story.
The prose was gorgeous. It was a little bit purple, but it was true to the style of WH and Croggon’s background as a poet showed in the most beautiful of ways. I’m just in love with the words of this book and how she framed the dreary and blood soaked land in the picturesque ways that the moors of WH were framed.
10/10 stars without question. A stunning retelling of an often misunderstood classic.