By Alison Croggon
Available now from Candlewick
I was sold on BLACK SPRING quite quickly. Emily Brontë's WUTHERING HEIGHTS updated with magic and Albanian vendetta culture, done by an acclaimed fantasy author? I'm not the biggest fan of WURTHERING HEIGHTS, but I can see how a blood feud and a bit of wizardry would punch it up.
Unfortunately, BLACK SPRING hews extremely close to its inspiration. The frame story is the same, only providing a bit of interest when visitor Hammel completely disregards maid Anna's tale at the end. Alison Croggon's best addition is adding a more obvious feminist text, as witch Lina struggles with the men in her life seeking to possess her or end her. Unfortunately, it's hard to side with her declaration of proud independence when she's ignoring someone trying to get her to come along lest she be killed.
As for the vendetta element, it is completely useless. (And why use the Italian word instead of the Albanian one, when this is clearly an Albanian influence?) As they are related to royalty, Lina (Catherine) and Damek (Heathcliff) cannot be directly touched by the vendetta. And while it comes to the town, I'm not sure when the blood feud ended, or if it ever did, which is just sloppy. The narrator Anna is affected, but since her focus is on Lina and Damek's story, she doesn't get to go into much depth about her loss.
The existence of witches and wizards isn't used much better. It highlights tension between male and female power in the country, but it is ultimately unimportant compared to hitting the beats of WURTHERING HEIGHTS exactly. It's a shame, because Croggon is a wonderful writer and the bit of her world she builds is fascinating. I'd love to see a story about this country, kept under control by the king's wizards negotiating the many blood feuds, that isn't devoted to retelling a story that has little to do with politics or magic.
I think I might be kinder to BLACK SPRING if I had never read Diana Peterfreund's FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS. Now that is how you marry a classic to a totally different genre. Croggon is a talented writer, so it isn't an unpleasant reading experience, but it's one that follows the original to slavishly. BLACK SPRING doesn't truly transform WURTHERING HEIGHTS, just offers a few stage trappings attempting to mask the moors of Brontë.