cover image A Pocketful of Crows

A Pocketful of Crows

Joanne M. Harris, illus. by Bonnie Helen Hawkins. Gollancz, $22.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-4732-2218-2

This short novel spins a pretty fairy tale, winding through the seasons from bright to dark over the bones of British folklore and song. A carefree “bonny brown girl” of the “travelling folk,” who borrow the bodies of woodland creatures, trades her freedom for a name and the thrill of the love of a wealthy young man. But when he betrays her for a fair village maid, she takes counsel with the elder wisdom of the forest and seeks her revenge as the only way to return to her former carefree ways. Harris (The Testament of Loki) balances her protagonist’s roles as an archetype and as an individual, telling a moving story of the loss of innocence through reference-laden prose in a mythic mode, full of charms and magic. Hawkins’s sweet, crow-filled pen-and-ink illustrations exude a gentle wildness and suggest that the character’s brownness is about race as well as the class distinction implied by the ballad that gives the story its plot. Harris closes the piece with witchy optimism about the cycles of life, making this a cozy flight of fancy to curl up with on a chilly night. Agent: Peter Robinson, Rogers, Coleridge & White (U.K.). (Nov.)