Saturday, July 20, 2013

Book Review: Raven Flight

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.

I sometimes forget that Marillier is a slowburn fantasy writer. Action, when it happens, is swift, brutal and harrowing for everyone involved so the bulk of the book is character building. Raven Flight is very much about everyone coming to grips with what they have to do for the greater good. Neryn and Flint both have to square their circles of guilt. Tali and Reagan have to learn to anticipate, not react, no matter how strategic those reactions are.

And above all the Good Folk need to get off their high horses and be proactive if they want peace once more.

When we last left Neryn she had joined up with the rebel folk and learned that there was devastating consequences to her powers if she wasn't careful and a larger destiny she needed to fulfill.  We open with Neryn still recovering from calling forth he aid of the Good Folk in a fight against Keldec's forces as well as learning what it means to be part of Shadowfell.

In some ways I think that life at Shadowfell is slightly more romanticized then it should be, but its a trait of Marillier's writing that I can't quite be irritated by.  Life is rough and people die all the time, so even though Shadowfell seems like a haven the reader is constantly reminded that for all the laughter and companionship these people share, they are not safe at all.

The news that Flint learns is indeed a game changer.  Its not a surprise to the folks of Shadowfell (or it won't be, Flint has not rejoined them by the time he learns what Keldec is so excited about), but the timetable will be.  Neryn's fretting about having maybe 2 years to find the other Guardians, when really she doesn't even have that.

The summary mentions Tali is worried about Neryn's love for Flint, but it goes deeper.  Neryn isn't a stupid girl with a head full of glitter; though she cares for and trusts Flint he still is part of the folk who basically murdered her grandmother.  He may play the good guy and work for the betterment of all, but he does nasty, brutal things and she doesn't ignore that so the fear is still there.

Tali is an interesting character who had to grow on me.  Initially she is cold and rude to Neryn, even though Neryn is supposed to be the Key to the puzzle of their victory.  Its all well and good that she thinks she's a bit loose in the head, but as Neryn trains and travels with her the reader begins to see its more then that.  She's seen so many young girls and boys like Neryn come and go, so many killed or run off or captured that Neryn is a harsh reminder.  She's not tough or strong, she has no fighting skills to speak of.  She lived on the road all those years, but that hardly qualifies her to be one of Reagan's trusted people.

In the end Tali is worried that she'll let Neryn down as well as Reagan and she's tired of that feeling.

The ending scene is a little confusing since Flint thinks one thing and a few paragraphs later has found the answer he didn't want, but knew he would find.  I'm not sure if this is a trilogy or longer, it feels a bit like it will be longer, but Marillier surprises me with how deftly she can bring a story to a close without really tying all the loose ends up.