Gr 2-4In this mystical tale, benevolent King Cormac is goaded into a losing battle with the tyrannical King Bregant. Cormac is blinded by a fall and left for dead on the battlefield. After wandering into the woods, he removes an arrow from the wing of a wounded crow. When the man is captured by opposing soldiers and locked in his own castle's tower, the crow comes to him with a promise to kill Bregant and restore the kingdom. It acts as Cormac's eyes, telling him of events in the castle, and, when the prisoner relates them to his captors, they think he has magical abilities. Insecure Bregant is afraid when Cormac prophecies his downfall, and fear leads to his death. The two kings represent pure good and evil, but this makes them one dimensional, and readers are unlikely to care about them. The plot moves quickly but with little fleshing out, and one is left with the impression that this story is but an episode in a larger legend. Younger readers may take Cormac's allegorical prediction of the tyrant's death literally and wonder why the actual demise is so different. Armstrong does not spin a magical tale, with the exception of Cormac's prophecy, which is almost Biblical. Rohmann's illustrations feature a dark palette similar to his Time Flies (Crown, 1994), and he uses color to reflect the different moods of the story and shapes to define the characters. However, the art merely reflects the text and does nothing to enhance it. This original tale tries to shape itself as a classic legend, but does not succeed.Cheri Estes, Dorchester Road Regional Library, Charleston, SC
Rich, dramatic paintings adorn this tale of treachery and kindness rewarded. Wise and generous King Cormac is envied by his neighbor, evil King Bregnant, who wages war on Cormac. After the battle, Cormac awakes to find himself alone and blind. Despairing, Cormac nevertheless shows compassion to a crow with an arrow in his wing and receives the crow's promise of future aid; later, when Cormac is imprisoned, the crow brings news of Bregnant's actions, enabling Cormac to unnerve his captors with his apparent powers of prophecy. In a final confrontation, Cormac predicts Bregnant's imminent doom, and the terrified tyrant stumbles and falls to his death. Traditional folkloric elements enhance the drama and mystery of this tale, giving it a classic feeling. Rohmann's handsome paintings add to this with sweeping layouts, striking compositions, and darkly burnished colors. A picture book for a slightly older crowd than the story-hour set.