Synopsis: “Asta’s Son” is all he’s ever been called. The lack of a name is appropriate, because he and his mother are but poor peasants in 14th century medieval England. But this thirteen-year-old boy who thought he had little to lose soon finds himself with even less – no home, no family, or possessions. Accused of a crime he did not commit, he may be killed on sight, by anyone. If he wishes to remain alive, he must flee his tiny village. All the boy takes with him is a newly revealed name – Crispin – and his mother’s cross of lead.
Discovering his name — Crispin — only intensified the mystery. Then Crispin met Bear, who helped him learn the secret of his full identity. And in Bear — the enormous, red-bearded juggler, sometime spy, and everyday philosopher — Crispin also found a new father and a new world. Now Crispin and Bear have set off to live their lives as free men. But they don’t get far before their past catches up with them. To find freedom and safety, they may have to travel to the edge of the world — even if it means confronting death itself. In this riveting sequel to the Newbery-Award winning Crispin: The Cross of Lead — the second book in a planned trilogy — Avi explores themes of war, religion, and family as he continues the adventures of Crispin and Bear.
For the Writer: Presentisms rub my fur the wrong way. TV is especially guilty of this kind of artistic ‘licence,’ injecting the past with modern day morals. It irks me. It’s a subtle form of historical manipulation, a propagation of modern ideologies. It says, Look, centuries ago a few people believed the way we do now, we’ve simply moved it up the evolutionary scale a notch. Don’t get me going. I only mention this in reference to Avi’s TCL and At The Edge of the World because over the pages of those novels I caught a whiff of the stuff percolating up through the character of Bear, a ‘live and let live’, ever-insightful, ecumenical humanist. TCL is a story plunged in a medieval world, yet hints of new world sensibilities.
This novel is interesting from another point of view. Clearly, young Crispin is technically the protagonist, but after I have let the story steep for a while, my mind is continually drawn back to the character of Bear, who, I would argue, is the real protagonist in that within him is the message and character of the book. Bear is the conduit of the author’s sensibilities…
But having scratched my itch, a small irritation by the way, I will say how impressed I was how Avi otherwise created an authentic world, which underscored plenty of research. His authentic writing extends into creating a stylistic tone, especially in the dialogue, which the author constructed to feel old, employing period vocabulary, mediaeval sentiments and events spanning fourteenth and fifteenth centuries England, in addition to the treasure chest of mediaeval scenery and props.
This tale is character driven. You are drawn into well-articulated three-dimensional lives and the reader empathizes deeply with their quest.