Publisher: Orbit Books
Page Count: 535
Release Date: March 17th, 2020
Series: THE KEEPERS, Book 2
Rating: 3.75/5 – Liked it!
Note: I was provided a free review copy by the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.
Warning: Potential light spoilers for the first book in the series. Haven’t read it? You can find a review here: SOULKEEPER
Londheim is a city on the knife’s edge of peace and total anarchy. The return of magic to the land has also awakened magic peoples that have been absent for so long that they were believed to be myth. And those peoples want their homes back. Only trouble is, those homes are all now occupied by humans, and they aren’t in the mood to share. While Soulkeeper Devin and his brother-in-law Tommy desperately try to find a peaceful resolution to the tensions, Devin’s sister Adria tries to understand the new powers forced on her by the madman Janus. Her new magics seem like they might be powerful enough to drive back humanity’s enemies – but can Adria wield such power without losing her empathy?
RAVENCALLER is the story of a handful of people trying to keep a city from completely falling into chaos, fighting back darkness as best they can. It’s a sprint from one disaster to another; no sooner has one problem been solved than another pops up. I’ve enjoyed this series a bit more now that I’ve readjusted my scope of the story. This isn’t a sprawling epic stretching continents, it’s one city dealing with a worldwide phenomenon, with all the tensions tightly contained and constrained into this one pressure-cooker area. I enjoy these kinds of stories, where people desperate to do good are just trying to spin plates, and eventually, some of those plates are going to fall.
The new magical races that appear are as fantastical as they are deadly. Whereas before the reader was largely introduced to smaller creatures like firekin and faery, these new creatures are of a size with humans, from the humanoid rabbits known as lapinkin, to the deer-like dyrandar, and the mysterious avenria. Even worse for humans, they wield magic and number enough to have their own nations and armies, and they’re understandably annoyed that they’ve been magically asleep for centuries and all of their homes have been taken from them. They want them back yesterday and they don’t mind wiping out humanity on their way to reclaiming what was theirs.
As I said above, I enjoy stories of people desperately trying to do good, but that also means I need to enjoy the people. Thankfully, the characters are fairly solid and here to be loved, even if they believe a little too much in the good of humanity sometimes. Wide-eyed, naive Tommy would love to be holed up with his books deepening his understanding of magic, but he keeps being dragged by the town guard to use his spells to fight the new magical races. Adria’s inner conflict was the most interesting, as her new powers are certainly useful, but they came from the madman Janus, so can they actually be trusted? And a new POV character from one of the new magical races adds even more shade to the conflict.
So if I enjoyed this book so much, why am I falling just short of giving it four stars? It all comes down to personal preference. You see, this book is DARK. There’s graphic depictions of violence on people of all ages, including some horrific human sacrifices. There’s frank discussion of sexual violence (and though they didn’t bother me, graphic consensual sex scenes). There’s a new human POV character who is quite twisted, a sociopath whose desire to help the magical denizens of the city would be laudatory, if he weren’t casually murdering innocent human bystanders to fuel his own powers and desires. It’s a darkness that can be oddly jarring given that most of the main characters are fairly noble and hopeful, making them almost feel out of place in a world that contains such atrocities.
And yet even while I find the darkness distasteful and off-putting, I nevertheless find myself compelled to keep reading these books. RAVENCALLER is well-paced and packed to the brim with magical creatures and spells that I find fascinating. Add in the continuing mystery of WHY the magic was put to sleep for centuries, and why it is suddenly awake now, and I am absolutely itching to get my hands on book three. While certain aspects of the book stop it from being a personal homerun, I see why others love this series so much.