One For Sorrow, Two For Joy
by Clive Woodall
Review by Colleen Cahill
Ace Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 0441013023
Date: 01 January, 2005 List Price $19.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Epic tales have a long history with many forms and faces. And some of these are not even human faces, as in the stories of Aesop or the adventures of the rabbits in Watership Down. In One for Sorrow, Two for Joy, Clive Woodall gives us the realm of Birddom, a country of birds within England which is suffering from tyrannical oppression that could lead to the end of all the birds. He also gives us a delightful new tale of adventure, loss and joy.
It is dark days for the robin Kirrick: not only are all his family and his mate dead, but he fears he is the last robin in all of Birddom. The small birds have been disappearing from the realm under the genocidal leadership of the magpie Slyekin and his murderous lieutenant Traska. These feathered megalomaniacs are bent on destroying all other species of birds, from the smallest sparrow all the way to the great Council of the Owls, the leaders of Birddom. It is only after a near escape from death by magpies that Kirrick is set on the path to the owl Tomar where he begins a quest to unite all the birds against their vicious foe. In a task of three parts, the plucky robin faces not only the hardship of flying through unknown territory with its many dangers, but also the constant threat of Traska, who is trailing Kirrick and determined on murdering the robin.
This book is actually two tales, one of Kirrick?s quests and a second that continues the plight of Birddom and its suffering from the magpie despotism. This is a jewel of animal fantasy, with all the players being real birds, not anthropomorphic caricatures. This is no Wind in the Willows and although the author wrote this story for his sons, be aware that the war is bloody and brutal. And this is totally in keeping with the plot, which is rich in heroes and villains, action and excitement. It is in the birds? emotions (love, friendship, jealousy and hate) and the problems they face of mindless violence and genocide that we can see reflections of our world. The birds are like one nation, with other animals, such as rabbits, having their own kingdoms and while they can communicate, mostly they ignore each other. Usually the animals work together only when endangered by their common enemy, humans. But people appear rarely in this story, which focuses on the interaction of Birddom as it heads to self-destruction.
This is not a work without humor or lightness. Many of the players take on the characteristic of their species, with Kirrick being a brave robin and Tomar the wise and crafty owl. The author makes an almost Dickens-like use of names for his characters: I was particularly amused by the name for the king of the sea birds, Kraken. All this blends with a rich story that reaches beyond one or two main characters to embrace the hopes of all.
The book encompasses many themes; from the amazing strength one being can show, to the importance of unity and facing evil together. Like all good epics, there is bravery and villainy, wisdom and greed, beauty and frightfulness all wrapped in a tale that carries the reader away. You need not be a bird watcher to appreciate One for Sorrow, Two for Joy, you just need to be a fan of a good story.