“The ability to feel is a strength, not a weakness.” // Review of “An Enchantment of Ravens” by Margaret Rogerson

Title: An Enchantment of Ravens
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Genre: Fantasy
Intended audience: YA
Date Read: 04/03/19 – 06/03/19
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This is one of those books that was totally enjoyable to read but was totally unmemorable  after I finished it. It was fun but ultimately a bit flimsy.

Isobel is an expert portrait artist who is popular with the fair folk due to her extraordinary talent. But when she paints human sorrow into the eyes of the Autumn Prince, he whisks her away to the fairy court to  stand trial for humiliating him.

That is essentially the story that is on the back cover of the  book, but it’s not exactly the direction the story takes. For one thing, the Autumn Prince, Rook, and Isobel, never actually get as far as a trial. I think the fact that it never quite goes in the direction it promised kind of threw me and left me feeling a little bit unsatifised.

I could also never quite pin Isobel down… was she a Mary Sue? She was certainly ridiculously talented. Surely there were more older, experienced painters than this seventeen-year-old, even if she has been painting “ever since she could hold a brush”.  Or was she one of those clever, capable female characters who turns to mush over a handsome man the second they meet? Actually, she certainly was the latter, even if she wasn’t the former.

And yet, at times, there was something about Rook that I really enjoyed. I think it might have been that he subverted a lot of my expectations. In so many books about the other folk, the Fey love interest is cruel and cold and the romance is a pile of problematic trash. Rook was actually vulnerable and awkward at times, and I enjoyed the way his privilege was often addressed. So I guess while he wasn’t the greastest love interest ever, he was better than I was expecting from this type of story, so it gets points for that.

I really enjoyed  the world-building of the fairy realm and I enjoyed the exploration of a life of immortality devoid of feeling. However,  I thought that Isobel’s world of Whimsy was a bit flimsy. I wasn’t quite sure whether it was part of our world, somewhere in between our world and the fairy one, or what was going on. There were references to something called The World Beyond but I wasn’t quite sure if this was our world, an afterlife or something else all together.

Still, despite all of that (and a bit of a deux-ex-machina-y ending that was supposedly being masterminded by another character all along), the writing was quite lyrical and lovely and that was what kept me reading.  Overall, I enjoyed the book, even though it will not go down as a favourite.


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Book Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Title: The Darkest Part of the Forest
Author: Holly Black
Genre: YA/fantasy/romance
Date Read: 18/03/2015 – 21/03/2015
Rating: ★★☆

Review:

darkestpartI had really high hopes for this book. The cover blurb made it sound really exciting, and while the reviews were certainly mixed, I was sure that it would be something I would really like. After all, Holly Black clearly knows her fey, and I love my fey, and this certainly sounded like it would be an interesting and fresh take on the fey, but… it all fell a bit flat. There were some moments when I was enjoying the book, and others were I was just really bored.

The Darkest Part of the Forest is set in the small town of Fairfold. There fey leave the Fairfold residents alone, though tourists are fair game. If the fey attack a local, he must have been acting like a tourist. In the darkest part of the forest is a glass coffin, in which lies a beautiful boy with horns and pointed ears. He has been there for generations, and never woken up. Until one day… he does.

The most difficult thing about this book was the pacing. There were a lot of flashbacks to establish important moments in the main characters’ lives, but it slowed down the plot a lot. And while the language used was often crafted quite beautifully, everything was written in such a way that it all seemed to move quite slowly and undramatically, even when something important was happening.

The central characters in the book are sixteen-year-old Hazel and her brother Ben. When they were younger they used to pretend to be knights and hunt nasty fairies. They were also both in love with the horned boy in the coffin. They both harboured fantasies about being the one to wake him. I liked both Ben and Hazel as characters in their own right, and they had interesting character arcs, but neither seemed to go through any enormous amount of development throughout the story. The horned boy isn’t hugely interesting either; given how much of a deal is made of him in the blurb, I expected him to be more of a central player.

I have heard that Holly Black can be a mixed bag, that she writes in very different styles and therefore not everyone likes the same parts of her work. I know she’s got quite the catalogue, so at some point, perhaps I’ll check out some of her other work. But this was certainly a disappointing introduction to her work.

Book Review: The Dark Realm (Feylands #1) by Anthea Sharp

Title: The Dark Realm (Feylands #1)
Author: Anthea Sharp
Genre: Fantasy/sci-fi
Date Read: 04/09/14 – 08/09/14
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

feylandsdarkrealmIt’s no secret that I enjoy anything to do with traditional representations of Fey creatures. When I saw a bundle of 10 Fey-related stories for 99c, I snapped it up, figuring that even if I ended up only reading one of the stories in it, I’d still get my money’s worth.

The Dark Realm is the first of the Feylands trilogy, and is a clever blend of sci-fi and fantasy. In the future, complete immersion in virtual reality is how video games are played. Feylands is only in beta, but Jennett’s dad works for a top gaming company, so she’s able to access it early. When she loses a battle with the Dark Queen, her mortal essence is taken, and unless Jennett can find a champion to play the game through with her and win it back, her real life could be in danger.

Tam Lin lives in a poor, rough neighbourhood that he wishes he could escape. He cares for his mother and his little brother, often missing school because of these responsibilities. He uses gaming as an escape, having won a decent console in a competition. When Jennett sees Tam play, she knows he’s the person she needs to as act as her champion in Feyland, but first she has to convince him she’s not just a spoiled little rich girl and honestly does need his help.

The world-building and the plot are what made this story for an older reader like me. If it had been set in an every day high-school setting, I wouldn’t have had much interest. However, the contrasting descriptions of Jennet and Tam’s neighbourhoods, as well as the in-game descriptions of Feyland are what really drew me in. When aspects of the game started bleeding through into the real world, things started feeling really intense.

While I am yet to get around to reading the other two books in the series, I certainly intend to, as Tam and Jennett certainly aren’t out of danger yet. If you are familiar with the traditional ballad, “The Ballad of Tam Lin”, then the story will take on an added layer of meaning. I didn’t know of it until I read it at the back of this book, and I still enjoyed the story. Recommended!