sydney morning herald

SMH: The Crippled Angel

The Crippled Angel is the final volume in The Crucible trilogy, Sara Douglass’s “secret history” of medieval Europe, 1348-1381.

An expert in early English history, Douglass stresses that the trilogy is set in a “parallel universe”, thus accounting for variations in the historical record (such as Joan of Arc appearing sooner than in our world, and compressing the Hundred Years War). But readers will equate it all with our own world’s history, and Douglass declares the trilogy to be faithful to the mindset of our own medieval Europe.

She presents the series as offering an “explanation” for the change that came upon Europe in the 14th century. “Medieval Europe had been an intensely spiritual society: the salvation of the soul was paramount. Post-14th-century Europe abandoned spirituality for secularism, materialism and worldliness.”

The Crucible trilogy has won its huge following because Douglass can expertly focus such swathes of pseudo-history into vivid human drama.

Does it all end well? It does for the reader! Despite the fashion for open endings (leaving room for new trilogies), Douglass plays extremely fair and meticulously sews loose ends into a tight weave. This may be a little too neat for some, but most readers will be delighted with such an elegant completion to the tapestry.

©2002 Van Ikin / Sydney Morning Herald. To read the full review on the Sydney Morning Herald website please click on this link.
Van Ikin is co-author of Strange Constellations: A History of Australian Science Fiction (Greenwood, 1999).