Review: Raven Flight by Juliet Marillier


July 5, 2013 by Heidi

Raven Flight by Juliet MarillierTitle: 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”

I’ve also reviewed:

Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters 1)
Son of the Shadows (Sevenwaters 3)
Shadowfell (Shadowfell 1)

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013

This review was written as part of the Aussie Women Writers Challenge


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  1. Oh man, I am sorry that you didn’t love this one and I am even more sorry that there is not enough Flint…you know how I love those slow burns!! I think I am going to read this later next week, I had hoped to get to it sooner but with the move and such it has been pushed to the back burner!

    I will keep you posted on my THOUGHTS and I think Ame and I are starting Child of the Prophecy in the next few weeks. Join ussss!! <3

    • Heidi says:

      There is SOME Flint, and I guess now that they’ve acknowledged things it’s more intense Flint for the time he’s there, but since he’s a more interesting character to me than Neryn there was a sad lack of him. Please do keep me posted on your thoughts, and I’m certainly going to join you for CotP!

  2. I remember we had such high hopes for this installment, so it’s a shame it didn’t entirely live up. I’ll undoubtedly pick it up soon, though maybe not immediately since I’m reading Child of the Prophecy at the moment (I’m actually really liking it, despite all the “meh” reviews!) but I’ll be back for more Flint definitely. I both love and hate the teasing direction that the romance is going in this novel, though it will drive me insane. Neryn, sadly, IS a bit of a Mary Sue now that I think about it and to see that continue in this is disappointing. I’m still glad that, overall, this was a better novel than Shadowfell so hopefully the concluding novel in this trilogy will wow us yet! :)

    • Heidi says:

      Oooh, I’m about to pick up Child of the Prophecy myself! I do have it at home from the library, just haven’t gotten to it yet. I agree–I hope the third gets even better. The only time Neryn didn’t drive me nuts was when I could get caught up in the story, which is why I had such a hard time getting into the slow beginning.

  3. Nafiza says:

    Ah, thanks for the wonderful review, Heidi. I think I’m going to give this one a pass. I didn’t like the first one too much and Neryn’s Mary Sue-ishness will make me tear my hair out.

    • Heidi says:

      Lol, yeah, I probably should have passed as well, but it’s so hard to admit to myself when I don’t love a series by one of my favorite authors.

  4. Holly says:

    It seems like this got better for you from what I read on Goodreads. I’m glad. I just got approved for this on Edelweiss. I’m sad to hear there’s less Flint but happy to hear it’s more plot heavy. I’ll let you know my thoughts.

    • Heidi says:

      Yes, being more plot heavy is what made this one stronger for me, though I’ve seen others who enjoyed it less. I think you liked Shadowfell more than me anyway, so hopefully you enjoy this one as well!

  5. See I love Neryn. I don’t see her as without flaws. In fact, I think you named the main one: she’s good to a fault, too good. And therein is vulnerable to making mistakes as a result.

    I’m deeply excited for the plot twists to come, the way Marillier is to handle things. If it goes anywhere near the direction it gave me a hint of in Shadowfell then I’m going to have SO MUCH FUN. And even though I’ll be whining, like you, over the lack of Flint, it’s going to be interesting to really get to know Tali.

    Training with the Big Ones? YES PLEASE. I can’t wait!

  6. […] Annette’s Book Spot | Book Revels| Bunbury in the Stacks […]

  7. […] and romance – sigh!”, and proclaims it “YA fantasy at its absolute best.” Heidi @ Bunbury in the Stacks finds in Raven Flight a stronger instalment than Shadowfell, but continues to wish the story had […]

  8. […] “the writing in Raven Flight is near flawless” Bunbury In The Stacks – “my dislike of Neryn makes it difficult to enjoy this story” Book Revels – “an engrossing […]

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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.