“Asta’s son” is all he’s ever been called. The lack of name is appropriate, bcause he and his mother are but poor peasants in fourteenth-century medieval England. But this thirteen-year-old boy who thought he had little to lose soon finds himself with even less—no home, family or possessions. Accused of a crime he did not commit, he has been declared a “wolf’s head.” That means 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.
His journey through the English countryside is puzzling, amazing and terrifying. Especially difficult is his encounter with the juggler named Bear. A huge, and possibly even mad, man, Bear forces the boy to become his servant. Bear, however, is a strange master, for he encourages Crispin to think for himself.
Though Bear promises to protect Crispin, it becomes clear that the boy is being relentlessly pursued. Why are his enemies so deterined to kill him? Crispin is gradually drawn right into his enemies’ fortress, where—in a riveting climax—he must become a different person if he is to save Bear’s life and his own.
Before this book, I had never read anything by Avi, of which I have been told is a shame. I am inclined to agree after my first sampling. Avi is something of a writer that I like; he is thourough, has a high but easy-to-read style, has a message to present, and memorable characters and vivid scenes. I enjoyed Crispin, as a historical fiction, and also a tale about a boy who simply wants to be free. Being a book placed in the middle ages, there is always some reference going on towards the church and priests, and prayer, and it's lovely. It seems like a lot of people don't want to touch the subject of any religion except to put it down. I enjoyed Avi's view on it; it's only as good or as bad as the men who teach/preach (speaking of the church of England). If you haven't read Avi, I think Crispin is an excellent place to start, and I was excited to find that Avi has written other adventures with Crispin but this book can stand alone; you need not read the others if you don't want to.