Friday, September 20, 2013

Review: Raven Flight by Juliet Marillier

Title: Raven Flight
Author: Juliet Marillier
Series: Shadowfell, Book 1
Release Date: 9 July 2013

Be warned, spoilers for Shadowfell abound below.

Neryn has finally found the rebel group at Shadowfell, and now her task is to seek out the elusive Guardians, vital to her training as a Caller. These four powerful beings have been increasingly at odds with human kind, and Neryn must prove her worth to them. She desperately needs their help to use her gift without compromising herself or the cause of overthrowing the evil King Keldec.

Neryn must journey with the tough and steadfast Tali, who looks on Neryn's love for the double agent Flint as a needless vulnerability. And perhaps it is. What Flint learns from the king will change the battlefield entirely -- but in whose favor, no one knows.

Map of Alban from Juliet Marillier's website

Last year I read my very first Juliet Marillier book, Shadowfell. It was one of my favorite books of the year and single-handedly saved the YA genre for me. Immersive, smart, peopled with characters I cared about – it drew me in and kept me wanting more. I was more than a little nervous when I picked up Raven Flight; sequels have let me down more often than they’ve impressed me.

I ended up loving it even more than the first book in the series, and my excitement for the concluding volume in the trilogy is through the roof!

But some things did not change...Courage, for instance. Dedication to a cause. Comradeship. When they were strong and pure, when they came from deep in the bone, those qualities could hold fast against all odds.

In Shadowfell Neryn had a goal, just reach the end and all would be alright. She learned a bit differently on her journey, but it was still that singular goal. Raven Flight has Neryn on another journey, this time to hone her craft, learn the skill of a Caller, and be the person who is needed to turn the tide in the war to come against the King.

She is still incredibly reluctant to use the gifts that can cause death and injury to those around her, she feels guilt for those she hurts and those that die. That showed, to me, that she’s conscientious. If those that have the power to harm never consider, worry over, or rail against the consequences, I worry about them being in power. As she journeys to the Guardians part of what I saw in her training was the knowledge and learning to be able to instinctively use her gift in ways that do the most good.

“I like your anger…I like your resistance. It makes you less than courteous, but altogether more interesting.”

As the journey once again takes a large part of the story, with no small amount of time spent in her lessons, we’re cut off from the greater group of people within Alban. Neryn travels, mostly, only with Tali - her guard. We get some incredibly important glimpses, small moments that are all the more precious, to us and Neryn, because of their brevity, but for the most part this book is the building of Neryn. I have to say, I appreciated this more than nearly anything in the book. Too often in books I’ve read the woman will have some special gift, powerful and demanding, and then she meets a man and becomes dependent on him for the rest of the story. Not so with Neryn. Her thoughts wander to Flint with regularity, but he’s off doing what he must do while she travels with a woman who soon becomes a friend.

I didn’t like Tali much when we first met her. She was brash with little depth, I thought. I was wrong. Tali has layers that haven’t even begun to be shown. She’s steadfast and strong, confident and still slightly vulnerable, loyal and a good friend. Watching the true friendship develop between these two was so incredibly refreshing.

Let there be a time in the future, I prayed, when he laughs with his children, and plays on the shore with them, and spends all his nights in loving arms. Let us have that. To whom I was praying I did not know. The future was in our own hands. If we wanted a world where such things were possible, it was for us to make it.

Flint, oh Flint. I love your tortured soul more with each and every word. Those small glimpses from your point of view were cherished; over too quickly, but all the more special and important because of it. I can’t get enough of this man that walks on both sides of the war and the sacrifices he has to make. The tenderness in his heart, after all he’s done, is amazing and incredible. My heart breaks for him frequently. I worry about him all the time. Sooner or later his secret will be out, I only hope he’s prepared. The moments between Flint and Neryn were heart-wrenching and oh-so sweet. I need more.

”There's a light shining in him, moving him forward: the light of freedom. That's what draws all of us to follow, to take risks, to keep on fighting when we see our comrades fall beside us. But there's no light without shadow.”

In Shadowfell the villain, the King, was little more than a reference. We saw the consequences and actions of his decrees, but none of him. Not so here! We finally get more than a vague reference to the King’s villainy; and it was enough to make me wish I could jump into the book and get rid of him myself!

I should talk about the Good Folk for a moment, or their dialect. I am a reader that, generally, hates written dialect. It’s often distracting and hard to read, not to mention often used incorrectly and stereotypically. While the Good Folk do talk in dialect, and a fairly strong one, it’s very nearly phonetic, easy to read, easy to understand, and completely consistent. It adds depth and something more to both the characters and the world that they’ve lived in for so long. This is one of the few books where I really appreciate the dialect added to their speech.

There’s not a lot more I can say without spoiling a whole lot of the book, but I will say that even with the slightly slower pace than Shadowfell, this book put me through the emotional wringer. There isn’t a character in the entire rebel force, or of the Good Folk that I’m not attached to, all of them are special and distinct.

I said, when I finished, that I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the long year (or so) wait until Caller, the third and final book in this series, comes out. A friend said: “Oh, that's simple. You start her other books.” Lucky for me I haven’t yet dug into Juliet Marillier’s back-list. But I shall, oh yes, I will.

Grade: A-

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