My first novel, City of Kaiju, is available for pre-order. Available through Amazon and Books2Read. You can see a preview of the very first chapter here. Releasing on February 12th, 2019.
Fiction Friday is a series where I talk about what I’ve been reading. Short Stories (and sometimes Novellas) are featured as in-between posts and the first Friday of the month will feature a new novel review. Today, I review Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse.
Time for a different kind of fantasy. Instead of swords, elves, orcs and the like, how about a stealthy kind of fantasy, one with a dark and brooding feel, like Assassin’s Creed meets Game of Thrones.
Today’s novel review is Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse. You can buy it here. It’s a powerful tale of darkness, cunning, and a world divided in yet another potential fantasy classic. So sit back and let’s dream on.
The Ravenwood Family
The story follows Selene Ravenwood, the heir to House Ravenwood, one of seven mighty houses in the realm. This means bearing the power of dreamwalking, entering a stranger’s dream to find their deepest, darkest secrets. However, this also meant that she must be a killer at her mother’s behest. But when an evil empire seeks to take over their lands, the seven houses must find unity. But when there’s a traitor in their midst, Selene must decide who is her friend and who is the enemy.
To start, I love the concept. I love characters who are so conflicted that it makes their goal that much harder. It’s not the sword-wielding adventurer, but an heiress deciding if family is more important than innocence. When I first read this, I assumed it would be some kind of assassin story, but it ended up going in a different direction, which worked in the end.
Selene discovers her gift for entering dreams comes at a terrible price, her innocence and good nature. She is forced to be a killer, whether she wants to or now because Lady Ragna Ravenwood will preserve her house after the others betrayed her, even if it means creating unlikely alliances.
Selene reminded me of Sensa Stark from Game of Thrones, in which she’s unsure of her future, but doesn’t wish to harm people. Granted, Selene isn’t as weak as Sensa (far from it), but she does have moments where she isn’t sure who she wants to be. Having to go from being a respected woman of House Ravenwood to a feared name is jarring for her, after having gained the trust of numerous servants only to spread rumors of her.
Lady Ragna is another thing. Initially, I assumed she would be the harsh, but fair teacher, but it became pretty clear she’s the villain in this story and a wonderful one at that. She’s calm and collected, always several steps ahead and fools the other houses in thinking she’s out for the world when she really wants revenge.
Ragna doesn’t come across as the cliched cartoon villainess, which is a breath of fresh air for some stories. She does have a motive in feeling vengeance for the other houses bailing on her. It gives her a bit of sympathy which I felt worked wonderfully. The rise to power idea is a nice touch and hopefully, future books can expand on that.
An Imperfect Gem
A few gripes did exist. The whole story started from Selene’s POV, but soon switched to Damien Maris, her inevitable love interest, and eventually to Ragna. I felt that it should have stayed in Selene’s POV the whole way through. She’s the more interesting character, but we know more about Damien than we do about Selene. Maybe that’s the point, but it would have been interesting to see Selene face her new life in the Ravenwood house and interact with Opheliana and Amara, her sisters, who barely get involved in the main story. I was expecting a full-on fight between Selene and Amara, but perhaps another time.
Also, the writing did get repetitive at times, but I managed to follow along. Some words repeated endlessly and while it did look clean (I didn’t find too many errors if any) it still didn’t have any sharp descriptive moments. Also, there were instances of telling throughout the story. Fantasy is kinda known for that, but the book could have had more instances where the scenes slowed down a little bit sot the heroine can take it all in.
Also, the beginning took a while to get through since the training lasted for about nine chapters or so (out of a 39 chapter book). The pacing felt off at times, but not too bad. It did keep me engaged throughout the whole book. I felt invested in this world and the unity of the great houses. Speaking of, it did feel a bit like Game of Thrones a little and it might be my pet peeve of seeing Fantasy Stories where numerous books have House [X] in their family names. A little more uniqueness would have been nice.
Overall, this was a fun story to read and kept me going the whole way through. Watching Selene develop as a character and witnessing the politics through Damien’s eyes made for a wonderful Fantasy tale. I’d recommend this to anyone seeking a fantastic read that you can’t put down.
That’s all for today. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.