City of Crows

City of Crows

A woman's heart contains all things. Her heart is tender and loving, but it has other elements. It contains fire and intrigue and mighty storms. Shipwreck and all that has ever happened in the world. Murder, if need be... 1673. Desperate to save herself and her only surviving child Nicolas from an outbreak of plague, Charlotte Picot flees her tiny village in the French cou...

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Title:City of Crows
Author:Chris Womersley
Rating:
Edition Language:English

City of Crows Reviews

  • Andrea

    Filthy,

    In late 17th century France, Madame Charlotte Picot flees her plague-ridden village with her only surviving family member, her young son Nicolas. They

    Filthy,

    In late 17th century France, Madame Charlotte Picot flees her plague-ridden village with her only surviving family member, her young son Nicolas. They are heading towards Lyon when Charlotte is attacked and Nicolas abducted. Rescued by the Queen of the Forest, Charlotte reluctantly accepts the

    from the retiring witch before she begins her search for Nicolas.

    Meanwhile in Marseilles, Monsieur Adam du Coeuret is surprised to be summoned to see the Governor of the galleys, where he has been incarcerated for 5 years for telling fortunes and uttering incantations in Paris. He is released, changes his name to Lesage, and heads north to see his family for the first time in many years. Not far into his journey, he comes across Charlotte in the pre-dawn, standing inside a protective mystical circle scratched into the road.

    And that's where the magic (pardon the pun) of the story happened for me! Talking at crossed purposes, a huge misunderstanding has Charlotte thinking that Lesage is the demon she has summoned to help her search for Nicolas, and Lesage truly believes he has been charmed/enwitched into the service of the Queen of the Forest. So off they go to find Nicolas, and an early lead sets them in the direction of Paris.

    This is the third novel by Chris Womersley that I've read; all three being very different from each other. Loosely based on real people and events, this one gave me the history that I love, without being overpowered by the fantasy/paranormal aspects of the story, and it transported me to a filthy and debauched Paris of the 1600s. Along the way I had quite a few laughs as Charlotte and Lesage tip-toed around each other, trying to achieve their own individual purposes without upsetting the tenuous balance of their decidedly

    -magical co-dependence.

    Recommended.

  • Bron

    I am in love with historical fiction at the moment, and witches/sorcerers/village healer women always (see also the good people), so this looked right up my alley.

    It was a great read - I loved the relationship between the main characters, and there was a really good tension in the writing caused by the ambiguity around chance vs magic. There was also quite a lot of pus (since the plague is almost a character)

    I gave it 3.5 stars

  • Pam Tickner

    3 1/2 stars ... It started out 4 star and dropped off by the end to 3 stars. I loved Womersley's descriptive writing style of the time and place but didn't feel the same about his character development. I couldn't tell if Charlotte became almost mute as the story went on because of extreme trauma or if the author got bored by her. I had almost lost interest in her plight by the end. A good book to discuss - because I'm not sure what happened in the end.

  • The Cats’ Mother

    I surprised myself by enjoying and therefore finishing this, having got it from Book Club with mixed reviews - I figured I would give it 50 pages then move on and return it. I do like to at least try all kinds of books, but have not had much success with prize-winning literary authors, or “magical realism”.

    I found the writing easier and more immediately engaging than expected, and was soon drawn into the plot, so can recommend it, apart from the abrupt, open ending.

    Set in Franc

    I surprised myself by enjoying and therefore finishing this, having got it from Book Club with mixed reviews - I figured I would give it 50 pages then move on and return it. I do like to at least try all kinds of books, but have not had much success with prize-winning literary authors, or “magical realism”.

    I found the writing easier and more immediately engaging than expected, and was soon drawn into the plot, so can recommend it, apart from the abrupt, open ending.

    Set in France during the reign of Louis XIV, this is about a young peasant woman, Charlotte Picot, whose husband has recently died of the plague, leaving her village with her last surviving child to try and save him. Attacked on the road by a gang of slavers who shoot her with an arrow, leaving her for dead and taking her son, she is rescued by an old witch in the forest, who heals her and then passes on her powers and a book of spells. The witch instructs her to summon a demon who will help her, then leaves her alone.

    Simultaneously, in Marseille, an ageing confidence trickster is released unexpectedly early from his prison sentence and, renaming himself Lesage, sets out to return to his beloved Paris, with a map he believes will lead him to a buried fortune. When a drunken inn-keeper mentions the witch in the forest, he is convinced she is the key to finding it. Bound together by magic or misunderstanding, they travel to the City of Crows to find Nicolas, but Lesage’s past associates want him to return to the lucrative business of spells and manipulation - can he redeem himself and save Charlotte’s son?

    I really wasn’t sure which way this was going and liked the uncertainty around the magical elements. This is based on true historical events and people, according to the author’s note. The descriptions of 17th century life - the filth, hunger, disease, cruelty and disregard for life made for uncomfortable reading as they are almost certainly accurate. Neither Charlotte nor Lesage were appealing characters but I still had my hopes raised for a happy ending for them, so did feel rather cheated when it was left open to interpretation.

  • Richard

    This was such an entertaining read. Provincial France and Paris in 1673: plague, impoverished peasants, a corrupt church, and decadent aristocracy. Muck filled streets, the smell of excrement, unwashed bodies, sour wine, grilled meat. Necromancers, sorcerers, poisoners, abortionists, thieves, beggars, and orphans everywhere. Corruption writ so large Dickens would have gasped. Into this a boy is kidnapped, a near murdered mother is initiated into witchcraft and given the grimoire that goes with t

    This was such an entertaining read. Provincial France and Paris in 1673: plague, impoverished peasants, a corrupt church, and decadent aristocracy. Muck filled streets, the smell of excrement, unwashed bodies, sour wine, grilled meat. Necromancers, sorcerers, poisoners, abortionists, thieves, beggars, and orphans everywhere. Corruption writ so large Dickens would have gasped. Into this a boy is kidnapped, a near murdered mother is initiated into witchcraft and given the grimoire that goes with the trade. She summons a fiend to help her find and rescue her son, and the action and description proceed apace. Everything is clear to the reader, nothing is clear to the characters - what a great bit of trickery by the author whose only fault may be that he revels in descriptions. Philip Pullman's advice came to mind - the woods are not the story, stick to the path. It's not a fatal flaw, and many of the descriptions are breathtaking - especially the scenes of Paris and the haunts of the players. If this were a movie I'd see it in the style of David Lean's Oliver Twist - know what I mean?

    There are a few reviews of this book that call it "magical realism." I think that's a misused term. Think of City of Crows as a fable replete with the beliefs of its time - a time when magic was practiced, and ambiguous.

    If you're a fan of gothics, and historical fiction (this book is based on real people,) this is a hell of a read.

  • Meg

    This book definitely took me on a journey.

    I was instantly hooked in the first chapter. I loved how this book was written, but as the story went on, I started hating Charlottes character. She became very whiny through the middle of the book and towards the end. I would've liked the sorcery and witchcraft to be more real, instead of it being coincidence through out the book.

    The ending of the book was satisfying due to the circumstances of the characters, but I would've liked to know m

    This book definitely took me on a journey.

    I was instantly hooked in the first chapter. I loved how this book was written, but as the story went on, I started hating Charlottes character. She became very whiny through the middle of the book and towards the end. I would've liked the sorcery and witchcraft to be more real, instead of it being coincidence through out the book.

    The ending of the book was satisfying due to the circumstances of the characters, but I would've liked to know more about what happened to Charlotte instead of it just drifting off. I hate stories that don't finish scenes or tell us EXACTLY what happened. It feels like a bit of a let down.

    I recommend this book, but I would not reread it.

  • Tundra

    I enjoyed this story with its factually based, plot driven magical realism. The plot, time period and setting are all intriguing however my hesitation lies in the ending where the magical realism (hinting at magic -but it could be just coincidence) tips into realism. It just feels like an easy option to end the book.

  • Roy

    I had heard amazing things from the local bookseller. This was a case of not being a great fit for me.I loved the historical fiction aspect with some hint of magic realism. I just found thr characters boring. I never felt involved in Charlottes plight. I also found it weird how sudden some characters changed personality or traits. The ending I cant tell is a cop out or one of those ambiguos you decide for yourself or bookclub type moments. I'll definitely give Womersley another shot as I did bel

    I had heard amazing things from the local bookseller. This was a case of not being a great fit for me.I loved the historical fiction aspect with some hint of magic realism. I just found thr characters boring. I never felt involved in Charlottes plight. I also found it weird how sudden some characters changed personality or traits. The ending I cant tell is a cop out or one of those ambiguos you decide for yourself or bookclub type moments. I'll definitely give Womersley another shot as I did believe his writing was very good, just not these characters plus the strange change in plot direction.

  • Lisa

    I feel really bad about abandoning this book because I've met Chris Womersley and he's a really nice man, and a really good author too. I met him at the Miles Franklin Awards ceremony when

    was shortlisted, and I really liked his next novel after that which was

    (not the city, a block of flats in my city of Melbourne).

    But, although I made my way to page 129,

    lost me with its occult elements. I'm not keen on the Gothic, but I liked the beginning which was reminiscent of Geraldine B

    I feel really bad about abandoning this book because I've met Chris Womersley and he's a really nice man, and a really good author too. I met him at the Miles Franklin Awards ceremony when

    was shortlisted, and I really liked his next novel after that which was

    (not the city, a block of flats in my city of Melbourne).

    But, although I made my way to page 129,

    lost me with its occult elements. I'm not keen on the Gothic, but I liked the beginning which was reminiscent of Geraldine Brooks'

    , and I was interested to find out how the mother Charlotte was going to rescue her son Nicolas from the slave traders and whose fate was so vividly depicted with the chapters about a man inexplicably freed from captivity. But I can't take seriously magic and witches and whatnot - even though I know that what's they believed in C17th France and elsewhere - and there was just too much of it for the book to hold my interest.

    Still, it's beautifully written and has an authentic feel for its period, and I'm quite sure that there will be plenty of people who love it, maybe more than they loved his previous books...

  • Daniel Polansky

    A mother who might be a witch pursues her kidnapped son through 17th century France with the aid of a charlatan who might be the devil. Discomfiting, fast-paced and with a mean sting. Excellent genre fiction, worth your look.

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