RAVENCALLER by David Dalglish (Book Review)
‘Lyra of the Beloved Sun, hear my prayer. His body is weak, his legs unsteady, and his burdens beyond what he may bear. Grant him strength to walk in your name. May he stride tall through fields of strife, and care not for the danger, but only for your blessed light.’
Ravencaller by David Dalglish is the second book in The Keepers series. The first book, Soulkeeper, was such a thrilling read, it certainly set the bar high. Was this sequel as good? Well, let’s just say that this series is fast becoming one of my all-time favourites! So I think that speaks for itself really.
I’m not going to dwell on the state of the world right now; we all know it’s an anxiety-filled, frightening mess. It may be a cliche, but books, especially in the fantasy genre, are undoubtedly a great form of escape for me. Ravencaller proved to be perfect for this. For a short while each day, I was sucked into a surreal fantastical world, and I was blown away.
Much in the same fashion as Soulkeeper, Ravencaller entails an abundance of monsters and mayhem. The book is set solely in the city of Londheim, a place where the old magic has returned and along with it, so have the magical creatures. They have awakened to a world that was once their domain but is now ruled by humans, and so, they fight to reclaim all that they feel is rightfully theirs. With cannibals, giant spear-wielding lapinkins, bloodthirsty foxkins, man-eating owls, gargoyles, and the Forgotten Children running amok across the city, the survival of the human race lies with our four main protagonists – Devin, Adria, Jacaranda and Tommy.
However, their task is never an easy one. A war between the two races, and even between inner factions, is reckoning – there seems to be no time for peace. The Ravencallers, with their dragon-sired magical minions, and the cult of The Forgotten Children, cause much chaos and danger for the citizens of Londheim. Their sights are set on destroying Adria, a newly formed Chainbreaker with extraordinary power. It is clear from the beginning that Dalglish sets a relentless pace, with wall to wall action and battle sequences that often had my pulse racing, we certainly get an exhilarating ride. The battle magic was truly incredible; from the windleaping lapinkin who would bound into the air and fall upon their enemy impaling them with spears, to the magical martial arts of the avenria Ravencallers, and the sword fighting Onyx fairies, there is much to be dazzled by.
‘Her soul was a shimmering light of memories and emotions. Their souls were black voids upon a colourful canvas. She was a painter wielding a brush. They were madmen holding a torch.’
Yet, whilst Ravencaller remains heavily centred around monster-slaying, somewhat akin to The Witcher series, Dalglish also consistently makes us question the very nature of monsters. Almost every character is morally grey to a certain extent, and the lines between good and evil, right and wrong, hero and villain are always blurred. Who truly are the monsters? Both magical creatures and humans have caused and suffered brutality alike, they have lost much, they both deserve a place in the world, and yet they view each other as the enemy. The Ravencallers kill mercilessly, but humans also kill out of fear and lack of understanding. The Keeping Church and city rulers are corrupt to their core, their sense of superiority, of higher divinity, drives them. Are any of their actions any more justified? Dalglish is an author who allows you to view prejudices from every angle, and he presents to us a narrative which contemplates achieving a balance, in an extremely unbalanced world. There is also an underlying current of hope that runs through the narrative, a hope that there is still some good left in this world, and peace between the various species is worth fighting for. The only question is, at what cost?
‘I am a King of the dryandar,’ Cannac bellowed. The force of his voice was like a fire sweeping through grasslands. ‘I come without guards and subjects into your capital, and yet you accuse me of subterfuge? I seek diplomacy, but you accuse me of aiding those who seek violence and conquest by force? You insult me, humans. Was I wrong to expect better from you?’
In terms of characters, it was a pleasure to be back with many of my familiar favourites, and being introduced to many new characters too. Although there are a few additional POV’s to follow, Dalglish fleshes out each of them, and develops their story arcs in gripping ways. I was particularly impressed by more spotlight shining upon magical creatures such the Onyx fairy Tesmarie, my beloved firekin Puffy, and a humanoid deer, Cannac. All three proved to be wholesome characters, whose genuine ideology of harmony, beautifully cut through the all the grimness. Speaking of grimness, the inclusion of further new characters such as Evelyn and Dierk, brought some great ambiguity to the book, as although both have done vile deeds, Dalglish still manages to evoke empathy for both.
As I reached the ending, I felt as though I had been caught in a whirlwind. Dalglish raises the stakes, makes your jaw drop, and leaves you thirsting for more. Or you could say, you are left raving for more of Ravencaller!
ARC provided by Orbit in exchange for an honest review. Ravencaller is out now!