Author : J A Devenport
Faced with increasing pressure from rebels, the tyrant king of Dargenn must force a war with the rival nation of Relan to unite the country behind him. To help create chaos, he turns to the most feared assassin in the world, the Raven, a man cursed by ancient demons and forced to kill at their whim; if he fails, he dies. Using his knowledge of the Raven’s masters, the king forces the assassin into a contract to kill the only individual who might threaten his plans, a powerful sorcerer and scholar named Enias.
But the king may have just handed the Raven the key to breaking his curse once and for all.
By Raven’s Call was a really fun read. On the surface it may appear a pretty standard fantasy story that you’ve enjoyed and read several times before. But look a little deeper and there are some really interesting elements that make this a unique and clever read.
For the most part, the characters are three dimensional, unique personalities that fit together like a jigsaw. The main characters are easily likeable, though none of them is a paragon of virtue. I like this, being a fan of characters that are shades of grey over binary good or evil. They’re not afraid to kill when necessary, or use more force than necessary. But they’re all fighting their own inner demons, desires and compulsions and it feels rewarding when their armour is stripped away and we are able to see more into what drives their actions.
Despite this, it still feels like there is loads of character development left for our main characters, we could really get to know them in book two.
We have The Raven himself, who despite being a merciless killer, has a good heart. He’s coerced by spirits in raven form to fulfill every contract they lay down for him – or face his own demise. We also have a father willing to go to any lengths to see his daughter rescued. I found Ane to be one of the most interesting characters in the book, she starts off practically a damsel in distress, regaining her character and building her strength throughout the book, fuelled by vengeance.
One of the things that sets this story apart and brings a unique element to the genre is in Spirit Dancers. These are powerful individuals capable of harnessing the power of dead spirits called Aenmai, desperate to feel a semblance of life again. The most powerful are able to wield the power of multiple Aenmai, and even bond with them, further increasing their power.
Volora Silverface is one of, if not the most powerful Spirit Dancer, believed to harness the power of hundreds or even thousands of Aenmai. She just so happens to be at the King’s side, making it almost impossible to get close to him. And there are certainly many who would like the chance, most of all The Uprising; a rebellion set up purely to depose the tyrant king.
E’Deyn Challarion is the king of Dargenn, his decadent kingdom plagued by Lust Hunters that are approved by the crown. They take young girls as slaves for seedy means and in some circumstances, other more mysterious uses. The king’s immorality permeates his subjects, with most levels of society pretty oppressed. He attempts to hide and distract from his poor rule by provoking a war with the neighbouring nation of Relan, sending The Raven to assassinate a defected mastermind, Enias. He is believed to hold the secret to aerial domination, having helped create and design the original airships the kingdom of Dargenn used against them. The bulk of the story sets up the voyage aboart The Leviaton to The Stony Dome, an ancient fortress believed to be the place Enias is holed up. The use of airships such as The Leviaton plays a big part of the story, and although I’m not a huge fan of technology like this in my fantasy, it’s actually done really well and is quite central to the underlying plot.
The story as a whol really grabbed me and I like how its style changed throughout. I have to admit I feel there was a bit of a lull in the middle but only for around 30-40 pages or so. It was still well written, it just felt like there was a bit of hanging around planning and talking about things longer than I personally would have liked. For other readers, it will be a welcome break and a change of pace from really exciting action and adventure for pretty much all the rest of the book. It’s only because the story had dragged me along at such a pace that I yearned for it to continue! I like that the characters involved in the events make realistic decisions, with themes of allegiance, vengeance, sacrifice and suspicion being prevalent throughout.
By Raven’s Call is an excellent debut and a really good fantasy book. Devenport has shown he can hold his own in the genre with some novel ideas and a solid storytelling craft. I’ll definitely read book two and look forward to doing so.
Please note: for some reason By Raven’s Call isn’t in the first few results on the Amazon store. It is there! Just scroll a little further. Hope you enjoyed the review.
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