July 5, 2013 by Heidi
Title: Raven Flight [Goodreads]
Author: Juliet Marillier [Website|Facebook]
Standing: Shadowfell book 2.
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Published: July 9th, 2013 by Knopf BFYR
Format: Hardcover; 416 pages.
Source: ARC from publisher.
Spoilers!: This book and review contain spoilers for book one, Shadowfell, so go read that first!
Neryn has finally found the rebel group at Shadowfell, and now her task is to seek out the elusive Guardians, vital to her training as a Caller. These four powerful beings have been increasingly at odds with human kind, and Neryn must prove her worth to them. She desperately needs their help to use her gift without compromising herself or the cause of overthrowing the evil King Keldec.
Neryn must journey with the tough and steadfast Tali, who looks on Neryn’s love for the double agent Flint as a needless vulnerability. And perhaps it is. What Flint learns from the king will change the battlefield entirely-but in whose favor, no one knows.
There is a long winter to be spent at Shadowfell for Neryn to figure out who she will be to the people there and their rebellion. A long winter to become something more than the waif of a girl she arrived as and bring the Good Folk to Regan’s cause. A long winter followed by a very short few seasons in which Neryn must travel to the far reaches of her land to gain the training necessary to succeed as a Caller.
If I was disappointed in the first installment of Shadowfell, I can no longer say it was a result of reading it at the same time of one of Marillier’s superior novels. In fact, I haven’t read another Marillier since finishing Shadowfell, and I still found myself let down by the story therein. I had so dearly hoped that the fledgling confidence I held in Neryn at the end of Shadowfell would bloom into a full-throttled love in Raven Flight, but of course falilng in love isn’t that easy. It finally struck me that my continued grating with Neryn isn’t because of her faults, it is because of her lack thereof. She is, quite frankly, a bit of a Mary Sue. She’s a chosen one, and though inexpert in the use of her power is unfailingly kind, thoughtful, and generous to those around her. I do appreciate the internal struggles Neryn goes through with the thoughts of using her gift, but I, like Tali, get so utterly fed up with her being so unwilling to cause harm to anyone that she would instead stand aside and let Kaldec trample over scads of innocent souls.
As Flint was Neryn’s balance in book one, here Tali–the canny woman warrior from Shadowfell–provides us with a foil for our heroine and makes the story of Raven Flight one I was able to get into. Tali comes with a harder mind and a sharper edge, very willing to remind Neryn of the power a Caller holds. It is she that becomes Neryn’s prime companion for this story, and through her that we see the more subtle truths of rebellion. By Raven Flight’s close, there is no longer a question as to whether love makes us weak, or gives us hope.
Again we are given the very smallest snippets of the story from Flint’s point of view, and quite frankly, it was not enough for me. Not enough Flint period. Marillier cleverly steps back from the slow-burn relationship she wrought for us in the pages of Shadowfell, making Flint’s presence more brief and desperate in book two. I may whine for wanting more Flint, but in this way Marillier keeps us, and Neryn, from taking his position among the rebels for granted and reminds us consistently of the deadly game at which he plays. The scenes between Neryn and Flint here are so fleeting and urgent, filled with a longing for things they cannot show or do not yet have, and they did very successfully make me ache for more.
What made Raven Flight a stronger installment in this series, for me, was not only the emergence of Neryn as a strong-willed (if too-perfect) character of great endurance, but moreover the plot in which she and Tali journey to obtain her training from the Big Ones. I greatly enjoyed the further understanding of the relationship between Good Folk and humankind, and of Neryn’s power to bring them together. The trials she endures make Raven Flight more fairy-tale esque, and I very much enjoyed the imagery Marillier constructed throughout these sequences. That said, the chapters preceding this journey dragged for me. I found this book quite difficult to get into before finally some action broke and I was able to take in the last 80% or so in two long gulps.
I continue to wish this series were written in third person as my dislike of Neryn makes it difficult to enjoy this story directly through her interpretation, but I do feel as if this installment was stronger plot-wise than the first. The plot is becoming more complex, and while it tips its hat to many traditions of folklore or rebellion, it weaves the threads cleverly to create a unique but traditional fantasy. I missed the tension between Flint and Neryn that had crested by Shadowfell‘s close, but I also recognize the impossibility of continuing this slow-burn in the same way, and tip my hat to Marillier for inserting Tali in the begrudging friend slot to fill Flint’s place. Raven Flight was a story of friendship, love, survival, and most of all hope; I will certainly be there to cheer on Regan’s rebels in pages to come.
Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: At this point I’m committed and certainly want to see where the story’s going, though I won’t have any problems waiting for the next book with Sevenwaters in my hands.
Recommended for: Fans of Celtic mythology, and those who enjoy stories of rebellion and cruel rulers will likely enjoy this series.
Get a second opinion:
The Page Turner – “While I appreciate the fact that the book is focused on Neryn trying to hone her powers and seek out the Guardians I felt like there could have been more excitement and action to balance out the slow parts”
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This review was written as part of the Aussie Women Writers Challenge