Book Review: An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

Reading format: Library hardback

Content warnings: kidnapping, fighting, death, injuries

Rating: 3.4/5

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Seventeen-year old Isobel lives in Whimsy with her aunt and younger twin sisters. It’s a village often frequented by the fair folk, who are driven by their desire for human Craft. They can’t so much as cook, sew, or write without turning to dust. Isobel’s Craft is painting and she’s reknown among the echelons of the fair folk for her talent. In exchange for enchantments that benefit and protect her family, she paints portraits of the fair folk to capture their immortal vanity.

After completing yet another portrait of her most loyal customer, she receives a visit from her first royal patron, Rook, the autumn prince. But he isn’t like the other fair folk and, as she begins to paint, Isobel realizes there’s something missing in her likeness of Rook. On the last day she recognizes the missing element is the human emotion of sorrow, and deftly paints it in his eyes. She isn’t aware of her error until a furious and humiliated Rook returns after unveiling the portrait at court. Captured to stand trial for this affront, they make their way through the summer lands, where they realize something is amiss. As their roles change begrudgingly to an alliance, and perhaps something more that could violate the Good Law.

An Enchantment of Ravens is a fast-paced, light, young adult fantasy read. The premise of this book drew me in with its slight Feyre Archeron of A Court of Thorns and Roses painter vibes. The length of this book was also appealing as I wasn’t in the mood to read a 500-page stunner. Right away I noticed how deft Rogerson is with words and really enjoyed the writing of this book. The writing is succinct, but descriptive, and sometimes lyrical, which keeps the story moving along.

I also always like a story with a strong female lead, and this book delivers. Isobel is the main person responsible for the safety of her family; she’s confident in her Craft and herself; and she’s level-headed and observant. She’s also not flawless. Several times I found myself appreciative that Rogerson wrote about mundane things: needing to use the bathroom, being super dirty and smelly after traipsing through the woods fighting off strange creatures. You know, the usual. A couple of times I even chuckled at Isobel’s matter-of-factness.

Another aspect I like about this book is that Rook doesn’t fall squarely in the stereotypical all-powerful and stoic main male character role. Sure, he’s the autumn prince so he does have a lot of power he can call upon; and he does have to save Isobel a couple of times because the fair folk world is dangerous to humans. But he requires saving too, physically and emotionally. At times he’s less cautious than Isobel and it was refreshing to see the main female lead chastize the oh-so-perfect fae male character for this (whom authors often portray as having a great hold on their emotions).

However, though I enjoyed reading An Enchantment of Ravens, I felt like the plot was a bit underdeveloped. The premise of this book is that Rook is furious Isobel painted weakness in his eyes; weakness means losing authority, which is dangerous for a prince of any court. As they journey through the woods to put Isobel on trial, they find there’s something wrong with the summer lands. But why the lands are rotting is never really explained in the book. Or did I read it too fast? [Semi-spoiler-y] Rogerson alludes to several courts being under the influence of the Alder King, but those plot lines are left rather loosely tied.

Also, most of the story takes place during Isobel’s and Rook’s journey through the woods of the fair folk lands. Because of this, I felt like, in a nutshell, there wasn’t a lot of worldbuilding. Perhaps some don’t like a lot of worldbuilding, but I prefer it. There’s just enough to learn about the revelry of the fair folk as we visit one of the courts; but that’s about it.

By now I’m sure you’ve come to realize that there’s also romance in this book. I don’t read traditional romance novels, but I’m a fan of romance in the fantasy genre. However, I felt like it all evolved rather quickly. The story transpires over maybe a week and I found the development of such devotion just a little unbelievable. But what do I know? I’ve never had an adventure with a fae male.

Overall, I’d recommend this book if you’re looking for a lighter fantasy read. Just keep in mind that this isn’t a complex read and enjoy it for what it is. I’m a little sad I gave it a lower rating because I liked the writing; the plot details just needed a little more oomf. Critiques acknowledged, I still had fun reading this.

Book Details
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publish Date: September 26, 2017
Pages: 304
Type: Hardcover

First Lines Fridays: August 27, 2021

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?  The rules are as follows:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

If you’re using Twitter, don’t forget to use #FirstLinesFridays!

Without further ado….

Children think we make them, but we don’t. They exist somewhere else, before us, before time. They come into the world and make us. They make us by breaking us first.

I think the first lines of this book are so beautiful. They definitely caught my attention.

Do you know what book this is?

Still guessing?

Well, the book reveal is…

From Harper Collins:

A little more than a century from now, our world has been utterly transformed. After years of slowly overtaking the continent, rising floodwaters have obliterated America’s great coastal cities and then its heartland, leaving nothing but an archipelago of mountaintop colonies surrounded by a deep expanse of open water.

Stubbornly independent Myra and her precocious seven-year-old daughter, Pearl, fish from their small boat, the Bird, visiting dry land only to trade for supplies and information in the few remaining outposts of civilization. For seven years, Myra has grieved the loss of her oldest daughter, Row, who was stolen by her father after a monstrous deluge overtook their home in Nebraska. Then, in a violent confrontation with a stranger, Myra suddenly discovers that Row was last seen in a far-off encampment near the Arctic Circle. Throwing aside her usual caution, Myra and Pearl embark on a perilous voyage into the icy northern seas, hoping against hope that Row will still be there.

On their journey, Myra and Pearl join forces with a larger ship and Myra finds herself bonding with her fellow seekers who hope to build a safe haven together in this dangerous new world. But secrets, lust, and betrayals threaten their dream, and after their fortunes take a shocking—and bloody—turn, Myra can no longer ignore the question of whether saving Row is worth endangering Pearl and her fellow travelers.

A compulsively readable novel of dark despair and soaring hope, After the Flood is a magnificent, action packed, and sometimes frightening odyssey laced with wonder—an affecting and wholly original saga both redemptive and astonishing.

Book Review: Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel

Reading format: Hardback

Content warnings: fire, mention of sex, non-gory emergency room scenes

Rating: 3.25/5

Want to support local bookstores? Buy a copy of Musical Chairs on!*

*These are not affiliate links and I do not make a commission from any purchase made using these links.

Best friends for decades, Bridget and Will have finally found a third member for Forsyth Trio, their chamber group they started in college. Content with the knowledge that they’ll have a violinist for the autumn season, Bridget ventures to her cottage in rural Connecticut to relax and spend time with her boyfriend Sterling. But her plans are sent flying when he breaks up with her via email and her two grown children decide to spend their summer at the cottage with her, unannounced. With Bridget’s summer plans upended, what other curve balls could life possibly throw her way?

I should preface my review by saying this is not a book genre that I typically frequent (women’s fiction/general fiction). But my neighbor loaned it to me so I thought I’d give it a shot. I found it to be an easy read and a nice palate cleanser in between reading sci-fi/fantasy books. The author, Amy Poeppel, is a wonderful writer and I didn’t notice any of my usual writing pet peeves (incomplete sentences, overuse of ellipses). The writing isn’t too elementary nor too complex, but instead is just right (Goldilocks, anyone?).

This story includes such a variety of characters and/or personalities that I think most readers might find someone with whom they can connect. There’s Will, a pianist who has no desire to ever marry again; Bridget, an independent, single mother who’s a cellist; Oscar, Bridget’s son, who works in Washington, DC and hits a road bump in his marriage to Matt; Isabelle, Bridget’s daughter, who decides corporate life isn’t for her; Edward, Bridget’s father and famous composer with an iron will; and those are just a few of the cacophany of characters!

This light-hearted book is essentially about a modern, upper middle class white family who are trying to figure out which paths they want to take in their respective lives. And with that comes both discord, harmony, tears, frustration, and laughter.

However, there are a couple of things that knocked down my overall, subjective rating of Musical Chairs. My first minor critique is there are so many characters that I found it difficult to recall them all at times. Several times Poeppel just introduces a character by name once they enter the frame; but there are so many other moving pieces that there isn’t much character-building for these secondary and tertiary characters. I also feel like this story abruptly ended. I expected a well-rounded conclusion to the summer splendor, but instead it fell a little flat for me. It’s not an open-ended finish; but I personally would have liked to read an excerpt of Bridget, say, three months later.

Regardless, if you’re looking for a genre switch and find humor in good-natured family chaos, give this a shot. I’m known to be nitpicky, so decide for yourself!

First Lines Fridays: August 20, 2021

It’s been a while since I last participated in First Lines Fridays, so why not jump back in again?

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?  The rules are as follows:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

If you’re using Twitter, don’t forget to use #FirstLinesFridays!

Without further ado….

My parlor smelled of linseed oil and spike lavender, and a dab of lead tine yellow glistened on my canvas. I had nearly perfected the color of Gadfly’s silk jacket.

The trick with Gadfly was persuading him to wear the same clothes for every session. Oil paint needs days to dry between layers, and he had trouble understanding I couldn’t just swap his entire outfit for another he liked better.

And the book reveal is….

From Simon and Schuster:

Isobel is an artistic prodigy with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread 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. 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, Rook spirits her away to his kingdom to stand trial for her crime. But something is seriously wrong in his world, and they are attacked from every side. With Isobel and Rook depending on each other for survival, their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight 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.

Book Review: A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

Reading format: Hardback

Content warnings: Sex, kidnapping, gore, discussion of rape, discussion of cultural body mutilation, fighting, sexism

Rating: 4/5

Want to support local bookstores? Buy a copy of A Court of Silver Flames on!*

*These are not affiliate links and I do not make a commission from any purchase made using these links.

The war is over, for now, and Feyre and her inner circle have settled into a general sense of ease. That is, except for Nesta who continues to grapple with the horrors she faced in the war. She struggles to find a place for herself in the Fae world, a world the Cauldron forced her to join. Stubborn and self-loathing, Nesta turns frequently to drink and sharing her bed with Fae men to dull her pain. After months of letting Nesta try to help herself, her family intervenes and sends her to the House of Wind. There she must train with Cassian, who gets under her skin, and help the priestesses in the library. By doing these tasks, Nesta’s family hopes she’ll find a sense of self, purpose, and healing.

Meanwhile, the Night Court continues to gather intelligence on the human queen Briallyn, who remains intent on seeking revenge against Nesta; keep an eye on Beron; and forge alliances with more distant Fae lands. As Nesta settles in to her new routine, she discovers that she may be the only one capable of stopping Briallyn’s treachery. To do so she must learn to conquer her inner fears, regrets, and love herself.

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t as excited about this book because it’s through Nesta’s (and Cassian’s) point of view. Nesta is a piece of work and is not my favorite character in the series. And, admittedly, the first 100 pages or so are slow. They also contain a lot of Maas’s classic overuse of ellipses and incomplete sentences to impart drama or show that someone is thinking. I found this so distracting in the first 100 pages that I had to put the book down for a few days and read something else. I’ve mentioned in my other reviews of this series (ACoTaR, ACoMaF, ACoWaR, ACoFaS) that I think the writing needs improvement, but apparently it’s her style because it obviously got published.

Anyway, once I pushed through the first seventh of the book (yes, it’s over 700 pages long), I started to enjoy it more. A Court of Silver Flames is ultimately about self-acceptance and self-love. It’s about facing events that you have no control over and taking responsibility for those you do. It’s about healing and accepting what has happened to you and letting it roll over you so that you can find inner peace. This book is also about allowing yourself to be vulnerable and learning to trust others while also maintaining your independence.

I enjoyed all of the themes of this book. And even though I think Nesta is a trying character, I grew to appreciate her more as the story progressed. She experiences a lot of character growth and becomes a better person for it.

This next bit is a bit spoiler-y, but I love that there’s a quest to find three magical objects: the mask, the harp, and the crown. I won’t go into detail, but I think the concept behind each object, or what they can do, is so interesting. The harp interests me the most, particularly because Nesta seemed to be able to sense some of the history behind it.

Which leads me to my next point–I am a big fan of the continuous world-building of the Fae world and its history. There are more history lessons in this book for the reader and I hope to learn more. At least, I assume in the future we will; this book is primarily about Nesta’s and Briallyn’s vengeance and doesn’t resolve the looming threat of another war.

After reading it I learned from one of my book club friends that there’s a bonus chapter; it’s specific to the Barnes & Noble edition. I still haven’t read it yet, but this is a “for your information” announcement that it’s out there!

What were your thoughts? I’m always eager to discuss this series with others!