Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Answering review request: Shadow of the Raven

Robert Charles asked me to read his book "Shadow of the Raven". It's about Edric Saran, a foreign ambassador, investigating the death of a friend and through that getting involved with supernatural happenings such as crossing between dimensions and conflicts between deities. I will examine plot, characters, and polish, and then assign a grade.

PLOT
This is a growing plot. The way that it builds upon itself from the murder of a scholar to a titanic cross world climax is impressive. It's like you look back and "Whoa! The Caterpillar has become a butterfly!"

It's a strong use of the macguffin trope. The fragments of the portal stone are collected, assembled and put to use in the second act. While it remains important through the entire work, its use and purpose shifts. It is, in other words, not a mere trinket for the heroes and villains to fight over.

It's quite the well structured plot. Heroes and villains each take action as appropriate to their situation and take care to determine multiple possible responses and ways to advance. When a character is passed the Idiot Ball, the narration is fully aware of this and quickly explains why this action is/was appropriate to the character's temperament. It also adds to a sense of foreboding. Narrations says something like " X did something foolish and it led to tragedy" and I was like "Oh no, what happened?!"

Additionally, the use of Chekhov's Gun is fantastic. The number of seemingly inconsequential things that are set up in advance to become important later shows how well thought out  the story is and it also provides a nice pay-off when the reader makes the connection.

 The story feels both very long and also, shall I say "full extended" in that it left no stone unturned in developing itself and its characters. It took me a while to read it all and I enjoyed every page because of this fullness to character and setting.  

There is a fantastic closure to the conflict. It's a great sense of resolution for the fantasy epic main plot line while at the same time leaves open the possibility of future clashes with the villains. It also creates a nice Maybe Ever After for the romantic sub plot.


CHARACTERS

The male lead is Edric Saran, a snarky gentleman. On Tvtropes, we'd call him a knight in sour armor because of his grumpy attitude and cynical view matched with inner heroism, and in this case, chivalry. I really like how he develops over the course of the story, both in terms of character growth and also the revelation of his backstory.

The female lead is Arawiyn Trelan. She has this haughty princess demeanor that I find appealing. Matched with her determination to do good and stop the evil Solomon, it highlights her noble nature and works as a cap against bitchiness. She has her own character arc separate from the main plot and Edric's own that sees her grow in a remarkable way as well.

The two leads develop this Sword and Sorcery/Lady and Knight dynamic that enriches the narrative. It's fun to read for its own sake but also for the classic nature of it in what appears to be an early modern setting.

As for the villain, one thing that I like about this story is the way it plays around with the notion of who is the Big Bad. Is it Lord Solomon the sinister council chessmaster? Is it Jerrack, the dreaded fae lord of Fellhallow? Is it Maglyen, the god of death? Or is it Arianwyn herself, duping Edric into helping her with a myriad of half-truths and a wounded gazelle image?

 I also like Jamar. He's a classic Big Guy with his size and strength, who is also quietly dignified and possessing a similar gentlemanly snark (perhaps butler snark is more accurate) as Edric. Quintus is similar in this regard as the only Lawful Good character here who also possess more hidden depths than "incorruptible law enforcer".

POLISH

No spelling or grammar problems.

This story is written from Edric's first person narration. There's no frame device for it and so I wonder why he's narrating. However, I also get the sense that he's dictating this story to someone because it has a reflective air to it, as if he's recalling these events years later. It certainly works to the book's sense of humor as Edric's wit is shown in both his narration and his spoken words.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "The Shadow of the Raven" by Robert Charles an A+

Click here for the next book review (which was not a review request): Sword Art Online volume 2

Click here for the previous book review (which was not a review request): Worlds of Medieval Europe

The sequel to this book also has a review: Light of the Radiant

This was a free review request. I received in exchange except a free copy of the book.

Brian Wilkerson is a freelance book reviewer, writing advice blogger and independent novelist. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

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