An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
Published by: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release Date: September 26th, 2017
Genre: YA High Fantasy
Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized among them. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes – a weakness that could cost him his life.
Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. There’s only one way to save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless.
Isobel has a choice: she can sacrifice her art for a future, or arm herself with paint and canvas against the ancient power of the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.
Reviews for great books are easily the most difficult to write, because I can never think of enough words that mean “amazing” before it starts getting repetitive. But “amazing” really is the best word I can think of for this book.
Way back in January or February, I saw this gorgeous cover by Charlie Bowater floating around tumblr, and I knew I had to read the book. I mean, come on–look at this thing. Then I read the description, and I wanted to read it even more. I waited in agony while reading five-star reviews by those lucky bastards who managed to get an ARC, and then by the time it was released, I’d started blogging again so I had other things I needed to finish before I could even start this one even though it was sitting on my shelf. So there were some fairly high expectations.
The Book Squad decided to do a buddy-read, and somehow all five of us managed to actually read the same book at the same time, so that was quite a feat in and of itself. It helps that we all have the same love-hate relationship with SJM and once someone offered us something that screamed “SJM but much, much better“, we all jumped at the chance to read it. But really, the comparisons to SJM are only because of the fae courts and it’s not like she invented faeries and faerie courts. An Enchantment of Ravens stands well apart, and beautifully so. It was everything I wanted SJM to be. And that’s the last time I will mention SJM on this review because Rogerson deserves way better than comparisons.
The writing was beautiful. It was lyrical, funny, descriptive, enticing, and exactly the kind of writing I adore. It read like a fairy tale but felt modern at the same time–a style that lends itself so perfectly to this story that you barely notice the writing at all and you just float right into the novel. That is, until Rogerson pulls a turn-of-phrase that has you giggling out loud like an idiot. The way that she manages to go from romantic, passionate, and beautiful to downright hilarious in the blink of an eye is definitely a skill many authors don’t have. And Rogerson managed to sell me a relationship between a fae prince and a human girl in a way that actually felt real! It felt like the beginning of a real relationship between two people who are very different and who mess up a lot, without relying on crazy magical bonds and words like “
soulmate”. That’s also a skill that many authors don’t have (I’m not going to say it).
Plus, the world-building was incredibly fun. It brought together all the classic tropes about faeries (like their inability to lie and their forced politeness), and used them all to the plot’s advantage.
I also loved Isobel. She was sensible, smart, loving, and I kind of just wanted to be her friend. Her matter-of-fact way of dealing with magic is one of the things I loved best about her–that and the way she never takes anyone’s shit. Moreover, Isobel’s devotion to her little sisters despite their origin story is absolutely adorable.
And Rook! He is the romantic protagonist we need to see. He is neither naturally beautiful nor the perfect gentleman–in fact, he often gets on Isobel’s nerves. But he learns how to be more thoughtful of her humanity and she learns how to be less judgemental of fae in general. And their imperfections just made their romantic moments that much more satisfying and adorable. Plus, the whole thing about not touching her without consent? Hilarious, wonderful, and timely all at once.
But I think one of my absolute favourite things is that the fae world isn’t what we think it is. It’s scary, creepy, and strange. And the way that everything there is so reliant on glamour and focused on appearances was terrifying, but also very reflective of our world. (Aaaaand now I can’t stop thinking about how the fae world is a metaphor for standards of beauty as represented in the media and especially so by social media and that if I had an essay to write on this book, I could do that no problem. When will my English major brain realize that I’ve graduated?)
This book was, in short, amazing. I want a 10-book series and an HBO television show, thanks.
“Frankly, I had no idea how anyone knew if they were in love in the first place. Was there ever a single thread a person could pick out from the knot and say ‘Yes—I am in love—here’s the proof!’ or was it always caught up in a wretched tangle of ifs and buts and maybes?”
Have you read this? Please indulge me:
Gadfly = Kim Kardashian. Discuss.