Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on September 26th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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 among them. 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, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. There's only one way to save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless.
Isobel has a choice: she can sacrifice her art for a future, or arm herself with paint and canvas against the ancient power of 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.
The vibes I got from An Enchantment of Ravens makes me place this somewhere between A Court of Thorns and Roses and Wintersong. The similarities to the former put aside, Margaret Rogerson created a set of lovely characters and an enchanting world. This is, however, a classic case of good ideas not being entirely able to make up for a weak, meandering plot. This author’s writing is promising, but her debut has been overhyped, I’d say.
When I’d first read the premise for this book, I’d gotten strong A Court of Thorns and Roses vibes from it, and I was hestitant to pick it up. You’ll see reviewers saying there were no parallels between the books, whereas others told me I might like it in spite of those. Well, I have since claimed my place in the latter group. Though this book does contain elements similar to A Court of Thorns and Roses, this does not mean you won’t like this book if SJM wasn’t your jam. Things that’ll remind you of the aforementioned book: The heroine who paints, the divided-into-seasons fae courts, the love interest with dark hair and amethyst eyes, and the plot catalyst of him barging into her home and demanding she stand trial for her crimes.
You’d think, with certain aspects of the book not being very original, that this is going to be a copy of A Court of Thorns and Roses meets Wintersong. But it is not. Not only does Margaret Rogerson’s storytelling feel very different, she also takes the story in a different direction. An Enchantment of Ravens does its title justice: The setting is intriguing, enchanting, and has a touch of creepiness, which reminded me of Wintersong. The world is filled with mythical creatures and a human world which changes season according to the fae court in charge. The world-building is further underpinned with beautiful prose. I loved how Rogerson delved into the nature of the fae, not as creatures superior to humans because of their immortality, but as creatures who copy humans and long for their crafts, such as Isobel’s paintings – which they pay for with enchantments. Rogerson does not depict the fae as superior in beauty and skill, which is something I appreciated. If you pick this book up, you will also not fail to notice that she includes mundane things, such as peeing and showering, in her storytelling. I’ve personally never missed this in books, because they don’t add to the story for me, but I do think this is something that makes An Enchantment of Ravens stand out amongst books of its genre.
The characters were engaging, and I cannot tell you which one I liked most – though, obviously, my heart is rooting for Rook. The heroine, Isobel, is likable because she feels very real in her emotions and her struggles. She is portrayed as a girl who won’t go to extremes for romance’s sake, and this was such a breath of fresh air. I am tired of heroes and heroines who throw their sanity out the window for the love interest, and if you are too, then you will have a reason to like Isobel. Though his physical appearance and his cockiness resembles Rhysand, Rook felt very different to me. Rook was such a delight with his vanity and his vulnerability, and even his ignorance at times, that I could not help but love him. He could have been more fleshed out, because he comes across as a tad bland next to Isobel, but his characterisation was good enough to carry the story, so this is a complaint on a very, very high level. The romance has its ups and downs. I really liked how long it took Isobel to realise she was in love, and the respectful and affectionate relationship these two had was a positive. However, some of the romantic scenes felt quite random to me, which applies to the plot in general (see below). There are some intriguing side characters, such as March and May (two goats-turned-girls) and a sneaky, semi-dangerous fae girl.
So far, so good. An Echantment of Ravens could have been a great read, rather than a good one, had it not been for its unsatisfactory plot. The way Rogerson had plotted, this book read as though she’d changed her mind about where this story was supposed to head after a third of the book, but instead of correcting certain things, just continued in a different direction. The plot’s linearity is disrupted with an abrupt decision and meanders without aim from that point on. I was so confused as to what the whole point of the story had been halfway through the book. Things started coming together again towards the ending, but the whole middle seemed like Rogerson had been… lost while writing it. Though the ending had a touch of the dramatic, it felt rushed and thus was very anti-climactic. I did like the openness of it, and thought Rogerson brave for not clearing everything up (though one wonders whether she’d thought it through, I must admit), but I needed the whole climax to be longer and more substantial.
In a nutshell, I think An Enchantment of Ravens demonstrates that great things can be expected from Margaret Rogerson in the future. I loved the atmosphere (a perfect autumn read!), the world, and the characters. The weak plot definitely impacted my rating, for intriguing story elements don’t make for a good story without a proper structure.