Black Spring was inspired by the novel Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Alison Croggon adds an Eastern European flavor to the setting and a fantasy twist to the classic tale of a passionate obsession. Set in the savage northern plateau in a region known as the Black Country, the story centers on the unhappy lives of Lina Kadar and a boy called Damek. Lina is the daughter of the wealthy Lord Kadar, a relation of the king. Her mother, who came from a family of powerful wizards and was cursed for marrying outside of her clan, died giving birth to Lina. As Lina grows older, people believe she is a witch, and her father has to get the pardon of the king to save her life because in the Black Country, wizards make sure that no witches challenge their power. For a time, Lina grows up happy in the southern part of the country, raised by a nanny and her “milk sister,” Anna. To regain the king’s favor, Lord Kadar agrees to return to his homeland and raise the orphan Damek, a strange boy who people think might even be the son of the king. Lina is enraged at first to have Damek come and live with them, but she soon finds him to be a good friend, and they are inseparable. But soon the whole household is drawn into the vendetta--a web of revenge that is part of the dark traditions of the Black Country--and no one’s life is the same after that.
Black Spring is beautifully written and has a plot that will make you want to keep reading even if you know how Wuthering Heights ends (I read a summary of Wuthering Heights because I was really curious about what happened in it, but you can understand this book just fine even if you don't know the story). Some things in this story are the same, but the magic element and strange traditions of the northern plateau make the story different in an interesting way, and there are characters in Black Spring that are much more likable.
Croggon is a wonderful writer and describes the landscape so vividly that it seems terrifying and real. I think she has improved on the original character of Cathy, making it somewhat easier to understand Lina’s actions. Anna, a servant girl who is raised along with Lina, is a great character who tells most of the story, and she makes Lina seem less selfish and more doomed by fate. One of the things that I didn’t really agree with was the idea that Anna thought that Lina wouldn’t have been so selfish if she had not been persecuted as a witch. I don’t think that had much of an effect on Lina since she spent her childhood in the southern country. The Heathcliff character (Damek) is more mysterious, and we don’t find out much about his thoughts or feelings, so I didn't have much sympathy for him at all. But I think the whole obsession/revenge story works better in a fantasy setting because it’s more believable than in real life.