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King Crow by Michael Stewart

April 19, 2013 3:19 pm

Published by Bluemoose Books
ISBN: 0956687601
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King Crow sees Bradford-based playwright Michael Stewart’s first attempt at making the transition from stage to page and it’s a transition made with great aplomb. The novel follows its protagonist, ornithology-obsessed outcast Paul Cooper, from the troubling first days of life at a new school through an extraordinary journey of self-discovery.

The adventure begins when Paul meets Ashley O’Keefe at school. Ashley is the polar opposite of Paul – confident, good-looking and headstrong – and when he thinks that he might have killed someone, he decides to flee and takes Paul along for the ride. Paul is happy to accompany Ashley because of the possibility of seeing wild ravens. The two head towards Kendal, where things start to fall apart uncontrollably.

Brilliantly written, this book cleverly portrays the thoughts and attitudes of a troubled young mind trying to hide away from its issues and responsibilities. Right from the off it’s clear that Paul is someone who uses birds as a shield from the rest of the world – “When I look at people, I wonder what sort of bird they are” – and this theme is continued throughout the novel. Detailed descriptions of a vast array of birds are interspersed between the narration, regardless of how turbulent the tale becomes, which really demonstrates the extent of Paul Cooper’s psychological frailties. It’s this relentless shying away from the world that allows the reader to believe this is a genuine collection of thoughts taken from the mind of a severely fragile individual.

Stewart has clearly put a lot of effort into intricately piecing together all the aspects of this book and the result is something special and unique. Think Catcher in the Rye for bird enthusiasts. Perhaps that’s a difficult concept to get your head around, but it works. Believe me, it really does.


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