Review: Raven Flight by Juliet Marilier

Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Title: Raven Flight
Author: Juliet Marillier
Genre: fantasy, young adult
Series: Shadowfell #2
Pages: 416
Published: July 9 2013
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 3/5

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.

Juliet Marillier is a talented author. That much is obvious upon opening and reading the first chapter of her books. However, she is not perfect and further, even this veteran fantasy author is not impervious to falling victim to fantasy tropes that hamper an otherwise good story. The story created in Shadowfell is continued here in Raven Flight, but on the whole, the second novel is weaker, less creative, and spends far too much time involved in one form or another of a quest. This is still an immensely readable book - it's fast-paced and easily read, but it is not without error.

When I read Shadowfell late last year, I was a big fan. It was easy to get caught up in the magical alt-Scotland - "Alban" - that Marillier used to house her story of forbidden magic, an oppressive king, and one girl fleeing for her life. However, the setting takes a back seat here in round two, giving way to focus on a lot of talking, a lot of training, and A LOT of Neryn journeying from one place to another. It's not to say that I didn't enjoy Raven Flight, because I did once it hit its stride late in the narrative. It's just not quite on the same level as the book that came before. It's definitely a victim of sequel syndrome, but! It was still good and fun enough to make me excited for the eventual sequel sure to be on the way. 

If you don't remember book one, a reread might be helpful. There is some summarizaton of the events that came before, but on the whole, Marillier is concerned with new action and a new plot. There are a lot of the same characters, but the author spends little time revisiting them to reintroduce the audience. Neryn is again the main character and chief protagonist. She is as I remembered her, but the path she takes in book two is less harrowing and less compelling that what she went through before with Flint by her side. It may also the lack of real interaction and chemistry between Neryn and her love interest made the journeying less riveting to read about. Neryn has grown since Shadowfell - less naive, more aware, haunted by her abilities - but the book sorely misses her repartee with Flint now that Tali has assumed the role of second lead.

Due to the lack of Flint during the majority of Neryn's plotline, it's obvious that romance is a minor aspect to the novel. Instead Raven Flight focuses more on Neryn's attempts to bring together an alliance between rebels, chieftains, and the fey to overthrow the despotic King Keldec and to train her magical abilities as a Caller of the Good Folk. And writing towards those goals is where the novel stumbles. For in order for Neryn to foster the alliance the rebels so dearly need, she needs to be trained by all four Guardians of Alban... which are strewn across the four corners of her country. That makes for a lot of time walking to find one of the mystical Guardians, then the inevitable (and long-winded) training sessions once they are found.... and, well, all that makes for less than page-turning fare. Tali makes for a good companion and the evolution of her relationship with Neryn from antagonistic acquaintances to real friends is believable and shows Tali to be a more dimensional character.

There is some action, and some genuine surprises mixed in, but on the whole, Raven Flight is a weaker than expected sequel. I love a girl that can kick ass as Tali does, or one that grows and learns as Neryn does... but it's not the most invigorating read. It does some interesting things, and it isn't exactly boring, but it lacks the flair and originality that so marked Shadowfell. Instead it is comprised of more typical fantasy fare, with long segments of traveling and training. The few times Flint shows up in the novel, it's easy to see that his contribution is sorely missed across the board. His role is complex and he is a complicated character. His chemistry with Neryn, his conflicting loyalties all make for more interesting aspects than what Neryn undergoes throughout the novel.

I was a little disappointed by the path that Raven Flight took for the majority of the narrative, but in the last chapters, Marillier really takes it up a notch and saves this from a 2-star read. Several events and revelations keep the emotion high and the outcome unpredictable. They don't wholly make up for what came before, but will definitely leave readers on edge waiting to see how everything will turn out.

1 comment:

  1. Meh, this is a disappointment. I feel like this trilogy is one of Marillier's weaker works, which is sad as it has the same magic and beautiful world and potential, but the plot seems to lag. I still have to read this, so we'll see how that goes. No matter what, I'll read the last novel, so hopefully I'll enjoy this a little, at least. Great review, Jessie!


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