“High on a wave-battered cliff is a simple cottage built of stone. It clings the black rocks above a churning wide-grey sea. Smoke from a narrow chimney is beaten horizontal by the wind.
Inside the cottage a girl tends the fire.
But her baby will not sleep.”
After her Grandmother dies, Magda is alone in their house in their small Polish village. That evening men come and evacuate the village, but not knowing who the men are, and assuming them to be thieves in the night, Magda hides. The next day she is alone completely. Taking her neighbours horse she rides towards the nearest town. There she finds more evacuations, whispers of war, and the knowledge that a state of emergency has been declared across the country. Befriending arrogant, yet resourceful, Ivan is the only way Magda can see of getting to London, and finding her mother. But when the pair reach London it isn’t as welcoming as they had hoped and they find themselves living in a nightmare.
Whilst I knew that One Crow Alone was related to the story from After The Snow, I had assumed it was a sequel. However once I started reading I realised that wasn’t the case and One Crow Alone is a prequel, giving us more of an insight as to what the world was like when the winters started getting darker, colder, longer and what the transition from our world to that of Willo’s was like. Needless to say I shouldn’t have been worried about not remembering everything from the first book, and I was definitely impressed with what I got from this.
The story is told in quite a strange way. We actually start with a girl called Mary, telling a story to her baby to keep her quiet. The story is Magda’s story and to be honest, I had forgotten who Magda was in the first book. That didn’t matter though because she has a brilliant story of her own, about how she escaped the craziness of her own country, made if to London and then found herself in Wales. Its an insightful story about surviving, falling in love and making the best of what you have got. I loved Magda for how strong she was, how she could have just given up right at the start, stayed in the town where she was sent to live and become part of the Polish army that the government were trying to build. However she didn’t, she wanted to go find her mother, she wanted to spend more time with Ivan and she wanted to find her purpose. The story is all about that and I loved every second of it, even if it was cold and sometimes quite lonely.
The two main characters, Magda and Ivan were both brilliant and strong in their own rights. Ivan was arrogant, but he was actually quite lovely in places and I warmed to him quickly. His attitude to life was somewhat interesting, but he really did live for the moment. Magda was more a ‘settle for what you’ve got’ type and I really did love her for it, she made the most of what she had and took the good things when she could, she was sensible and loving, always looking out for others. I really loved Arwen and Bran, Alice and Bethan for that same reason too and the way they all worked together was brilliant for their characterisation.
In the book there are references to the cold winters, to a total of ten I believe, and there are also nods to things that help us place the book, with Princes Charles and William being mentioned and wind farms, televisions and radios all mentioned. It was like the book was set on the cusp of the Ice Age which is in effect in After The Snow, it is almost ‘during the snow’ and I couldn’t get enough of it. The world building is good, but I would have probably liked a bit more of it, though I assume we are meant to think it is the effect of global warming and the like which gets the world into such a state but its not really mentioned in this, however I think it is in the first book more.
I really did enjoy this book and think the series is well worth a read, with its language style and the emotional feel of the book I really struggle not to compare it with the Chaos Walking Trilogy, though that is not a bad thing in the slightest! I am really impressed with this authors work and will be checking out anything she writes in future.
One Crow Alone was published by MacMillan on February 14th. My copy was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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