Friday, December 1, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

TITLE: An Enchantment of Ravens

AUTHOR: Margaret Rogerson

GENRE: fantasy, romance

PLOT SUMMARY: Isobel is a painter, which makes her highly coveted by the fair folk. The fair folk can't create Craft, be it paintings, writing, or even food, without crumbling into dust, so artists such as Isobel are highly prized. After taking on her first royal patron, Rook, prince of the autumn court, however, Isobel gets herself into a bigger mess than she can imagine. When Isobel paints genuine emotion in Rook's portrait -- a weakness that could cost him his throne -- he spirits her away to the world of the fair folk so she can stand trial. However, there are forces at play much greater than Isobel or Rook anticipated, and the two are forced to work together for their own survival.

FIRST THOUGHTS: I bought this book for two reasons. One: Regan of PeruseProject spoke highly of it. (Hi, Regan, if you're reading this! Big fan!) Two: The cover is simply beautiful. Buying books based on the cover art or based on another review has backfired on me before, so I really wasn't sure how it'd work out for me this time. However, I'm happy to report that it turned out great! I've always loved stories focusing on fairies, and I especially enjoyed this book's unique lore and worldbuilding. It did take me longer than usual to get through this book (thank you, finals season), but I enjoyed every page.

THOUGHTS ON PLOT: I don't normally enjoy books that are primarily romance-based, but this proved to be an exception. I was especially surprised by how much I enjoyed the book's Forbidden Love™ aspect, since in most YA books, it comes off as lame and forced. But it didn't in this case; Rook and Isobel being together will cause actual problems, far greater than pissing a few people off. The stakes are high, and that's what makes the book work. "Star-crossed lovers" stories are only compelling if there are real reasons why they can't be together. I also really enjoyed the story's focus on the politics on the fairy world, and the road trip Rook and Isobel take through the enchanted forest. I wasn't expecting the plot to go the direction it ended up in, but I really liked it.

7 / 10

THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: Isobel is a mixed bag as a protagonist. There's a lot to like about her -- she's smart, self-assured, and noble. However, she's also very lowkey, which isn't bad in itself, but it means that she does get overshadowed by the other characters. I really liked Rook -- when I read the book's synopsis, I expected him to be the aloof asshole love interest that YA uses so often, but he wasn't like that at all. Haughty, sure, but in a clueless, ridiculous way, rather than an annoying emo way. I just really liked how genuinely nice he is, a couple stress-induced outbursts aside. The side characters in this book were also lovely, especially Gadlfy, one of Isobel's eclectic patrons, and Aster, who's surprisingly complex and sympathetic for her limited pagetime.

7 / 10

THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: By far this book's strongest aspect is its prose. The writing and narration are simply beautiful. It reminded me a bit of Laini Taylor's works, especially with the descriptions of the world and Isobel's paintings. I also really enjoyed the worldbuilding and the way the "rules" of this universe were established. It never felt infodumpy, but you were always given enough background to know what was happening, which isn't always easy, especially since our protagonist grew up in this world, and isn't learning as she goes. I've never read anything by Rogerson before, but I'm definitely interested in checking out anything else she's put out, especially any other fantasy.

8 / 10

THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: Like many books, this is an example of a story that isn't politically offensive... but it's also not progressive. There are no POC or queer characters in the story, which is disappointingly common in YA fantasy. (Seriously, though -- what is it about fantasy that makes people completely skimp on the diversity department? You can have dragons and fairies and witches, but not gay or black people?) It's not bad, politically speaking, but it's not good. Books like Six of Crows, The Hearts We Sold, and The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue have really raised the bar when it comes to diversity in YA fiction and fantasy, and I hope that more books will meet it in the future.

4 / 10

FINAL THOUGHTS: This was a delightful little book. While I can't make any promises at the moment, it's definitely a contender for my upcoming "best of 2017" list. Is it perfect? No, but no book is. I still enjoyed every page, and I think you will, too. I believe it's going to be a standalone, but honestly, I would welcome more stories set in this world. If you like fantasy, road trip stories, or forbidden romances, I'd recommend you check it out.

FINAL GRADE: 6.5 / 10


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