When Crow Poulin’s father dies, the young boy is left alone in the world. Despite being only fourteen, Crow has the skills to survive in the isolated cabin where he has spent his entire life. While he might dream of something more, Crow’s happy enough to follow in the footsteps provided by his father. While out trapping, Crow rescues a gravely wounded man, not realizing how that simple act will forever alter his sheltered existence. The man he rescues is part of a gang and, as thanks for his actions, Crow is invited to join. Wary, Crow agrees, but refuses to actively engage in criminal behavior, preferring to hunt and feed his newly adopted family. He doesn’t quite fit in amongst the other members of the gang, but at least he isn’t on his own.
When a robbery goes wrong, the gang kidnaps Spencer Haughton, the son of a wealthy magnate. Spencer is everything Crow has wanted in a lover, but he’s torn between his responsibilities to the gang and to keeping Spencer safe. As Crow and Spencer fight to find a place for themselves in a world where they seemingly don’t belong, they will discover the true meaning of family and an embrace a love worth fighting for.
The Ballad of Crow and Sparrow is a mix of intriguing period piece and disappointing romance that ultimately tries too hard and fails to be an epic.
Crow and Spencer are fine, just fine. Neither of them is particularly fantastic as characters go, but nor are they terrible. Crow reads as the more developed of the two and, more often than not, Spencer comes off as a bit whiny and annoying. Crow is part French-Canadian and part Mohawk and I did appreciate that readers are given a Western character with indigenous roots. Their romance never feels particularly deep; I won’t go so far as to say it’s unbelievable, but something just doesn’t mesh. I can’t even put my finger on it, but I failed to connect with the characters individually or as a couple.
The book, at times, seems as though it wants to be a sprawling Western, but more often than not, the pacing limps along and ends up reading as rather bland. There are moments when the action feels remote rather than involved and I found myself wanting more from the overall story. There were periods of action that worked, but they didn’t blend in well to most of what was on page. And that’s a shame, because the overall plot had potential and was initially what attracted me to the book.
The Ballad of Crow and Sparrow isn’t terrible, but it never seems to achieve its true purpose either. The characters are rather ordinary and the story doesn’t jump off the page most of the time. As a fan of Westerns, I wanted and needed more to make this one work for me.