Author: Margaret Rogerson
Publication date: September 26th 2017
Read: January 24th – 31st 2018
A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.
Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.
Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.
TW: violence, kidnapping.
An Enchantment of Ravens is the kind of book that has all the makings of a great fantasy adventure, but just doesn’t quite stand out within the genre.
The reason for this is there’s nothing really new about it. The usual tropes play out in the usual manner; the Fae are stronger, faster and more beautiful than mortals and therefore think themselves above them; the mysterious newcomer is secretly the prince; a forbidden romance begins to blossom after several dangerous encounters. It was all enjoyable to read, but nothing was really brand new.
There are, however, a couple of elements that stand out. Each Fair One has a flaw in their glamour that allows Isobel to mark them out as Fae, and each time a human curtsies or bows to a Fair One they physically have to return it (which turned out to be hilarious at times). But these elements didn’t work cohesively together enough with the narrative and world-building to make the story unique.
The narrative itself lacked fluidity at the beginning of the novel, at times coming across as clumsy and unedited. It did, however, improve as the plot progressed and didn’t fall into the traps of being overly floral or relying to heavily on metaphors. The dialogue between Isobel and Rook was enjoyably funny; Isobel’s sarcastic, sharp-as-a-blade sense of humour kept their scenes fresh and captivating. The world was your average slightly-more-fantastical-than-human setting, with little differentiating it from other fantasy YA, aside from the vivid descriptions of the autumn scenery and one wonderfully gruesome scene where Rook and Isobel have to fight a decaying monster. (It’s great.)
But apart from some good fight scenes, my main issue with An Enchantment of Ravens is there wasn’t quiet enough of anything. There wasn’t enough depth or breadth of plot, and I would have liked Rook’s character to have been further embellished. There also wasn’t enough world-building around the winter court, which was hardly mentioned, and we barely see Isobel’s raven enchantment in action. More could have been done with the dialogue too, which, although witty, would have been the ideal way to give the complexities of Rook and Isobel’s relationship more nuances. There were times when perilous things were happening, and they just didn’t say anything to each other.
Having said that, I liked the characters a lot and thought Isobel held her own as a protagonist. I found myself wanting to see her art in real life, as the use of colour in both paintings and setting was more naturally integrated than, for example, A Court of Thorns and Roses, where Feyre’s art seemed a device to make her character more interesting.
One thing that struck me was the way the book discusses consent. In one scene, Isobel wakes up to find Rook touching her hair, and tells him that it’s not acceptable to do so without her permission, describing the importance of both parties contenting to such interactions. This is exactly the kind of narrative we need in YA and Rogerson brilliantly dispels the myth that fantasy books can’t include this kind of discussion because it’s ‘out of place’ or clumsy. Isobel’s explanation is eloquent and honest, and I had to put the book down for a moment to applaud.
An Enchantment of Ravens is a fun, adventurous read, and if you like stories about Fae I’d certainly give it ago. Unfortunately, I was expecting a little more in terms of both plot and world-building and the ending was adequate, but not electrifying.