It’s getting close to the end of the year and the completion of the Goodreads challenge, something I’m behind on at the moment. This means that these past few weeks have been full of speed reading (or as close to speed reading as a dyslexic student with an eye watering number of essays due can). One of the books I got my hands on to try to make up on my book count was An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Roderson.
An Enchantment of Ravens is a fantasy book that follows Isobel, a young master painter who has a particularly dangerous set of clients: the fair folk. In a world where craft is highly valued by fair folk and everything is paid for by enchantments, Isobel developed a sharp mind and polite mask that didn’t upset the fair folk she painted. Things take a turn for the worst when she paints her first royal fair one, Rook the autumn prince. After she painted him with human emotion endangering both the prince and herself, they travel to the autumn lands for Isobel to face trial for her crime. The book follows them as they form an alliance to survive, prompting forbidden emotions that endanger them even more.
Short spoiler free review
I got through this book in three days, I simply couldn’t put it down. The plot is so refreshing, I haven’t come across many books where you simply cannot predict what’s going to happen next for a long time. It’s snappy and keeps just enough tension throughout to keep you sitting on the edge of your seat, excited to turn the next page.
Both Isobel and Rook are two compelling characters with personality and a backstory that gives them understandable motivations for their actions throughout the book. Isobel has to be one of the strongest, most inspiring female characters I’ve read this year. She has her head screwed on, confidence in her incredible abilities but still feels human and able to connect with those around her.
The author pays real credit to more traditional folklore by having the fair folk depicted with such haunting accuracy, something that I’ve been desperate to read for so long. If you’re a fantasy lover who’s wanting to read an exciting plot in a dynamic world with compelling characters, then An Enchantment of Ravens if for you.
In-depth spoiler free review
One of the strongest elements of this book was the characters. There was a relevancy to every name you came across and any character in the book could have a strong protagonist for their own spin off novel. Isobel’s character was robust, engaging and inspiring whist still feeling within reach of the audience. So often with strong female leads the protagonist leaves the grasp of the reader as the novel progresses. They become inspiring and strong but in a way that makes them no longer relatable, they all most feel like they’re too good to be true. Isobel’s character didn’t have this problem at all. There wasn’t this otherness about her because while she was a master painter with a sharp mind and such a sense of duty resting on her shoulder, she made some incredibly human mistakes.
Rook, the Autumn Prince, had a wonderfully satisfying character arc. I do wish the reader got a slightly better glimpse into his life and some of the political pressures that motivation his character, but this is only because I found him to be so interesting and wanted to learn more. There were so many questions I didn’t get the answer to with his character. However, whilst that curiosity is eating away at my mind, I also enjoy not knowing every last detail about him, it added to this layer of mystery and otherness that the fair folk had. What information you do get on him makes his motivations understandable to the reader, but that mystery acts as a constant reminder of this otherness and that at the end of the day he is not human.
The book didn’t dismiss the importance and value of humanity, something that a lot of books and films with fantasy creatures do (I’m looking at you Twilight). A lot of non-human characters are often romanticised, their immortality, amazing looks, speed and strength are so often viewed as the ultimate goal for the protagonists. It’s as if they only become a fully realised character once they give up what makes them human. It’s not a bad thing but it is a little over done at this point. An Enchantment of Ravens was so refreshing because you have a character that truly understands just how precious humanity is and rejects the idea of losing what makes them human.
I loved the incorporation of the seasons and how they were their own areas in the world. Real credit to Margaret for how she incorporated something we are all familiar with, the seasons, and made them new. Even though I’ve been living through the four seasons for the past 21 years I came away from the book feeling like I’d seen them for the first time. There was something familiar yet alien in how they were described. My only niggle with the world building would be with the more political side of the world and the Good Law. I wasn’t always 100% grasping why some things were part of the Good Law and why some things weren’t. The same goes for some of the political side of things in Rooks character arc. However, I’m not exactly the most political savvy person in the world so that may have something to do with it.
An Enchantment of Ravens is one of my favourite books I’ve read this year. I loved the dynamic and twisting plot that toyed with the reader giving them hope and taking it away just as fast, only to swoop in at the end and throw some spectacular plot twists your way. There was no case of sagging middle syndrome, and I was always excited to move on to the next page.
This book gets a five-star rating off me. I read the book on Kindle and fully intend to pick up a physical copy to live on my bookshelf, I can see me re-reading this book plenty of times. I enjoyed the characters, the plot and the world building. I had very few gripedswith the book and I loved the ending. I’d recommend An Enchantment of Ravens to be your next fantasy read.