Book review: Mark of the Raven
by Morgan L. Busse
Published November 6, 2018
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Genre: High fantasy, epic fantasy, young adult
This is my first book review on this blog. I decided to expand some of my blog posting to include book reviews because 1) I want to read more in the genres I edit and share what I'm reading, and 2) I think it can be helpful for authors/writers to see what others are saying about books in their genre.
So let's dive into the first book of the Ravenwood Saga!
Set in a meticulously crafted world, Mark of the Raven introduces readers to ancient houses whose families possess varying gifts (healing, wisdom, manipulating water, etc.) that they use to provide for and protect their people. The protagonist, Lady Selene, a daughter of House Ravenwood, experiences her gifting in the first chapter, giving her the abilities of a dreamwalker. As Selene is initiated by her mother into her gift and its uses, she is torn between loyalty for her family and the secrets of her gift that she begins to uncover.
The first half of the book primarily introduces the reader to Selene and explores her identity as not just a daughter but an heir of House Ravenwood and an heir of the gift of that house. She discovers the terrible power of her gift (the ability to walk in and manipulate dreams) and wrestles with the moral implications of her dreamwalking and her own inner demons.
Light and dark are consistent motifs throughout the book, and nowhere does Selene experience this light more than in the character of Lord Damien Maris, whose arrival, along with the leaders of the other houses for a tribunal, brings the pacing and suspense to a tipping point. Through the weaving of light and dark, Selene explores who she is in light of her family's gift and her mother's expectations.
Busse spends quite a bit of time building Selene's intricate world, and it isn't until the latter half of the novel, and really the final few chapters, that Selene is faced with a choice that will forever alter her destiny. While I'd been on the fence about reading the next book in the saga, the final few chapters, including the cliffhanger ending, were enough to convince me to read the next installment.
This is a solidly YA book—no cursing, graphic violence, or sex—and expertly edited and published. There are some fight scenes and intense dream sequences that should be well-handled by the target age group. I did find some of the time spent in Selene's thoughts and some of the repetitive language (it's written that Selene feels like she has bile in her throat a lot!) to be a bit irksome but not enough to take away from the reading experience too badly.
Fans of court intrigue, strong female protagonists, sword fights, marriage of convenience, classic good vs. evil, and magic will enjoy this book. It's a great introduction to the series, and I'm looking forward to the next one.