Fiction Friday: Mark of the Raven

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.

MarkOfTheRaven

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

One thought on “Fiction Friday: Mark of the Raven

  1. Hallo, Hallo,…

    I’ve been travelling through my WP Reader seeking fellow book bloggers who’ve soaked into the Ravenwood Saga and have something to say about it.

    It is nice finding someone who has an appreciation and affinity for non-grisly/gore narratives w/o a peppering of expletives! (per your About/FAQ pages) This is one reason I was excitedly happy to be selected to take a spot on this lovely blog tour for Ravenwood – as Prism Book Tours has happily been endeavouring me towards new authors who write through an eclectic variety of genres which provide the stories I am seeking most – approx. six months ago I hosted a feature for Ms Busse on my blog during #blogmas and to think I had the chance to read this saga now so quickly afterwards was quite the blessing for me!

    You know, when I first started to soak into Ravenwood, I hadn’t realised it was Dark Fantasy – until of course, the plot started to reveal its hidden layers, whilst delving harder into why Lady Ravenwood was bent on plotting against the Empire and the whole way she lived her life – half a foot in conjunction of keeping her family & House pure and half a foot into the darkest of shadowy exploits which truly not only jeopardised her own soul but the souls of her daughters. She was quite the character – seething with power but without a foundation of knowing how to wield it for the good.

    I almost wished there could have been more swordplay!! For all the training we observed for Selene, and then the sparring with Damien – I wished and longed for more instances where the swords could come out – especially that one sequence where Amara & Selene really get into it with each other within “Flight of the Raven”? It was both wicked good action sequencing but tempered against the emotions of what that scene meant for the sisters.

    Yes, I agree – when we first shifted POV off of Selene I was quite a fiesty reader myself! I really was put out by it — took me a heap longer to even ‘warm up to Damien’ as I was that miffed at first but then my ire softened as I truly liked Damien and his conflicted spirit/heart as the story progressed. He brought in the opposite heart of the story – where the good could circumvent the evils of this world and unlike in the sequel FLIGHT, this first installment didn’t break the 4th wall for me for overextending itself past what the roots were in concept and delivery for the spirituality threads – I still lament she left those overtures up to the reader but she was tethering it more specifically to our world’s concepts in FLIGHT as compared to keeping it more fantastical and rooted in this world’s theological past.

    That’s why I liked how she set the reader into a discussional pensivity about the Dark Lady and the Light? I wished that had maintained itself strictly for what it was revealling straight through without diverting a bit in FLIGHT to be more our world vs Ravenwood.

    I am clearly at a deficient in one regard – I never watched GOT and I was never keen on it either. Although, I do understand and respect the originality you are seeking – if you remove GOT for me this felt original as compared to the other stories I’ve been seeking to read and it was my first entry into #INSPYFantasy as well – which I appreciated the most. I love High Fantasy and I have a penchant for Dark Fantasy but not in the traditional sense of it – as I like the light to permeate through without it feeling oppressively *dark*.

    I didn’t feel this repeated itself as much – though to be honest, as a co-host of #WyrdAndWonder who went through 4x migraines this month and a heap of fatigue – I was just blessed and grateful to be reading the stories I have been – with several still about to arrive on my blog as a result of falling behind in releasing them – these stories just felt refreshing to even be able to dig into their concepts and layers… so perhaps I might have overlooked something in this regard as I’m noticing others have mentioned it too. Either that or I was just caught in the momentum of the story and let some of those minute observations go by the wayside. Sometimes the small things irk me like other readers and sometimes if I’m truly invested emotionally in a plot and/or characters I might just focus on other flaws which seem to aggrieve me more.

    Now, I must see if you’ve read FLIGHT!

    Likewise, due drop by if you wanted to see what I blogged about myself for Ravenwood – I dug into the heart of the story and series as well.

    PS: You’re not the only one with a name people love to mispronounce or become errantly creative in how they approach spelling it! I’ve seen so many derivatives of ‘Jorie’ its really unreal at this point!

    Like

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