White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick isn’t a book I would normally read – the horror genre has never been my forte because I have the intestinal fortitude of someone with the stomach flu – but the supernatural twist caught my attention. The blurb on the back calls the book “intensely scary” and Sedgwick tries extremely hard to build that scary tension in a way that’s agonizingly and deliciously slow, but he doesn’t do it effectively. The novel loses its all-important scary factor because of that, and what’s more, it can be really tedious to read at times.
The story is told in three alternating point-of-views– Rebecca, a teenage girl who has moved to the remote village of Winterfold for the summer with her father; Ferelith, an eccentric Winterfold native who befriends Rebecca and introduces her to the village’s deepest secrets; and finally, a priest, whose account is told in a centuries-old journal entries that help put all Rebecca and Ferelith’s experiences into context. Winterfold is a seaside village that has slowly been eaten away by the current; by the time Rebecca arrives, the town has only a handful of buildings, and the church has already begun crumbling.
Ferelith is the polarizing character in White Crow, and for much of the read I didn’t know what to make of her. Is she an innocent, lonely teenager or a spiteful, otherworldly she-devil? That question was probably a big factor in Sedgwick’s plotting, but the tension it should create doesn’t translate. So much of the novel is spent with Ferelith and Rebecca doing mundane things that seem to have nothing to do with advancing the plot… they sunbathe and go swimming and talk about absolutely nothing, and all the while Ferelith comes off as extremely unlikeable. There are some tense moments peppered in, but they feel superficial and unconnected, so when the big mystery is revealed, I didn’t feel particularly surprised, excited, or scared.
All the true tension and horror that’s present in White Crow comes from the priest’s descriptions, which can be quite graphic for a YA novel. Even though the concepts of the afterlife, God, and the Devil are introduced from the very beginning, the reader never knows if there will be a genuine supernatural event or if the story will end in a more practical way. Overall, White Crow asks some interesting questions, but never gives any of the answers it needs to keep the audience emotionally invested until the end.
Sydnee is a freshman at Wayne State University pursuing a degree in Journalism. She is obsessed with hunky heroes, explosions, melodrama, and magic—all things that make a frequent appearance in her stories. Her blog is http://syd-dreams.blogspot.com. Find her on Figment at http://figment.com/users/62-Sydnee-Thompson.