Title: The Crow Box
Series: Shadow and Ink
Author: Nikki Rae
Date Added: July 8, 2016
Date Started: August 9, 2018
Date Finished: August 22, 2018
Reading Duration: 13 day
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror
The small wooden box is dirty, the size of a human fist, and sealed with wax. When Corbin takes it upon herself to clean it and break the seal, a voice she has tried to ignore gathers strength. Shadows play on the walls at night, and with a family history of mental illness, Corbin fears the worst. But the voice tells her it is real. That its name is Six and it will prove it in time.
Drawn to this mysterious entity, Corbin isn’t sure what to believe and the line between reality and her imagination blurs more every day.
Some doors should not be opened; can this one be closed?
This novel did many good things. It established its characters really well from the start. We know Corbin’s mother is a hoarder without the MC needing to blatantly say it, and it makes it all the more real because we’re shown. She (the mom in this case) has some kind of mental health condition that allows her to collect disability (which in and of itself is a privilege), and she has her “good” days where she can put on a bathrobe, fix her hair and makeup, and cook burnt toast and runny eggs.
Corbin, being aware of how genetics work, is obviously concerned that she will wind up in the same situation, and from the beginning, it’s uncertain if what she’s experiencing is out of the ordinary or the beginning stages of a similar mental disorder, and that is what makes this novel so compelling. You are never sure if Corbin is actually experiencing the strange phenomenon known as Six or if it’s part of a psychological breakdown. The lines between reality and mental trauma blur, and those always make for interesting tales.
That being said, this book made me extremely uncomfortable. I am very triggered by manipulative and gaslighting behavior aka people who make you question your reality, and that’s ALL this story was. The entity Six was highly manipulative, and his behavior came off as grooming Corbin, especially when they starting getting more intimate. It made my skin crawl, and I was really hoping she would stop giving into his requests/demands, but Corbin just fell deeper in. This isn’t a dig on the author’s talent or the narrative’s flow. I think this is what Rae was going for.
The Crow Box is an excellent metaphor for mental illness especially those that manifest with hallucinations. We, the readers, are left to question whether or not what Corbin experiences is reality or hallucinatory. While the answer remains ambiguous, the fact that both her mother and grandmother had the same issues suggests her experiences with Six are part of her own mental illness. I also didn’t miss that the name Corbin is very close to the name of the genus and family containing crows: corvus and corvidae. It’s a nice touch, lending itself to the idea that the MC herself is trapped in the crow box.
There is another book after this, but I won’t be reading it due to how uncomfortable the first one made me. I know Rae is doing the “show the thing to reveal how not okay the thing is,” but for me, she’s doing it too well, so I’m going to pass. This is an ironic compliment, since she’s clearly a compelling enough author to garner such a strong feeling, albeit repugnance, for one of her works.