Title: An Enchantment of Ravens
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
Time for another review in the blog and today, I am talking about a book that unexpectedly took me by storm. I was quietly minding my own business when Cindy from readwithcindy posted a wrap-up video then rated this book 5 stars (yeah. crazy, right?) and subsequently go into a long-winded rant about fluff. Obviously, I am totally sold so I immediately bought a kindle copy and started reading despite my already growing TBR. In a nutshell, I unexpectedly found a gem.
A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.
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. 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—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. (via Goodreads)
This book revolved around Isobel, a 17-year old painting prodigy whose clients are the fair folks. In this world, the fair folk cannot perform any sort of Craft – basically, day-to-day activities like cooking, writing, painting, sewing, etc. The fair folk crave Craft objects so much that they bestow enchantments to humans in exchange for these. They are immortal creatures who are known to be devious, partly due to the fact that they cannot lie. They use glamour to hide their true nature/appearance – showing only what was perfect and desirable, but always with one flaw that gives away their disguise. Being the best in her craft, Isobel’s paintings are prized possessions among the fair folk. One day, Rook, the Autumn Prince, who disappeared from Whimsy so many years ago, showed up to become her first royal client. While painting him, she saw a strange emotion – human sorrow – in his eyes and decided to paint it. When the whole Autumn Court saw what she did in her portrait, Rook, in a fit of rage, whisked her away to stand trial and regain his dignity. While in the journey, they develop an unlikely relationship – ultimately leading to romantic feelings. The catch? by being in love, they are breaking one of the fundamental tenets of the Good Law: that no mortal and fair folk can fall in love. The price? Death for the both of them or the mortal drinking from the Green Well ultimately becoming a fair folk.
Before that gray and lifeless time following Rook’s departure, I’d always scoffed at stories in which maidens pine for their absent suitors, boys they’ve hardly known a week and have no business falling for. Didn’t they realize their lives were worht more than the dubious affection of one silly young man? That there were things to do in a world that didn’t revolve solely around heartbreak?
Then it happens to you, and you understand you aren’t any different from those girls after all. Oh, they still seem just as absurd – you’ve simply joined them, in quite a humbling way. But isn’t absurdity part of being human? We aren’t ageless creature who watch centuries pass from agar. Our worlds are small, our lives are short, and we can only bleed a little before we fall.
What I appreciate most about this book is that it doesn’t try to be anything it isn’t. It even calls out the usual tropes we see in the fantasy genre, acknowledging its “faults” head on – and, at the same time, turning them around. It’s simple and sweet. The story short and straightforward. The writing comes with a flourish that I really like. It is not over-the-top, just enough. It is so easy to take a few missteps when it comes to writing themes that so overdone by now. But I am glad that this book still delivered.
One notable thing that I must truly commend is how atmospheric this book is. I feel like this is how stories about faeries should be written. I have a really short attention span so transporting me into Whimsy with just a flick of a page is quite a feat in itself. I got chills because it’s always as if I can clearly picture everything in my head, the way Isobel sees this world. It was whimsical and sinister, resulting in an almost kaleidoscopic view of alternating fancy and grotesque. The dinner scene right at the spring court is one such example of a scene that was so vivid it was creepy. Heck, I even hear imaginary notes playing in my head while reading this. The kind that suggests you’re about to step into a magical and dangerous place. (Hedwig’s Theme comes close when I try to recreate it in my head.)
In terms of characters, Isobel and Rook are a charming pair. Isobel boasts of the practical thinking that are sometimes non-existent, or at least not enough, in fantasy heroines lately. I am a bit averse to lovesick heroines that feels like the whole world revolves around her love and her heartbreak. It’s amusing to see her contradict herself the moment she feels like she is being swooped in the maelstorm of feelings – because it means that she thinks. Rook on the other hand reminds me so much of Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle (a comparison I saw somewhere from Twitter and hasn’t left my head since). He’s vain, spoiled, broody and ridiculous – but I love this faery to death. He’s insecure but tries not to show it. He’s a much more complex character that what he wants to show and the way he loves Isobel is so pure and soft I just want to hug him just for the sake of it.
Right away he looked down at our intertwined fingers as though they contained the secrets of the universe.
Though this is technically a book filed under romance, I personally felt like the romance took a back seat in terms of the things that I admire about this book. Which is not to say it isn’t special. I love Rook and Isobel’s relationship so much, but it felt a little rushed in the beginning that I was not able to see the gradual and subtle signs that I would’ve preferred for romances I read in a book. I appreciate Isobel admitting that it was initially mere infatuation because that means that the author is aware that such attraction, especially something so profound, cannot be achieved or cannot materialize with instant circumstances. Yeah, I would’ve appreciated dwelling a little more in that aspect. (Basically, I am just saying that I am a sucker for slow-burns and fluff. Always fluff)
Though it was a bit slow in the beginning, where I struggled to push through for a bit, the narrative picked up at the half mark (?)… and from there, I didn’t look back. There were also a couple of really interesting supporting characters that drove the narrative forward in unexpected ways. I was swept away by the story – something that was told, maybe a couple of times before already, but executed so beautifully it’s hard not hold your breath and let it unfold.
So yeah… overall, this is a really breathtaking book and I would recommend it without question. Though I understand that this is a stand-alone story, I wouldn’t be surprised if there would be more books that would come out of this. I feel like there are still too many opportunities to expand this universe, even without Rook and Isobel in the center. (So this basically means that Sorcery of Thorns, another book by Margaret Rogerson, is in my pipeline.) But, honestly, I wouldn’t mind a continuation to their love story. 🙂
If you follow me on Twitter, here’s my An Enchantment of Ravens Reaction/Quotes Thread: CLICK HERE.
I paint not because I want to, not because I’m good at it. but because it is what I must do, what I love and breathe, and what I was made for.
Walking along a blade’s edge was only fun until the blade stopped being a metaphor.
“Make no mistake, it’s a small price to pay for the power and beauty of immortality. Yet it does make one wonder, doesn’t it? Why do we desire, above all other things, that which has the greatest power to destroy us?”
“No. You surpass us all.” Beside me she looked colorless and frail. “You are like a living rose among wax flowers. We may last forever, but you bloom brighter and smell sweeter, and draw blood with your thorns.”