Published: July 1st 2013 by Pan Macmillan AU
Format: Paperback, 384 pages
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Neryn thought she had lost everything and could trust no one, not even her mysterious companion, Flint.
But when she finds refuge at the rebel base of Shadowfell and discovers her canny gift as a Caller, she feels the first stirrings of hope.
Now she faces a perilous journey with the rebel Tali and the Good Folk, who shadow her steps. She must find the three Guardians who can teach her how to use her unwieldy gift – one that it is rumoured could amass a powerful army.
Can Neryn master her magical power to save Alban from King Keldec's stranglehold?
Or will she be too late?
I’m wary of sequels, especially if I loved the first book. I worry that the sequel won’t live up to my expectations and disappoint me (which has happened countless times). But it’s sequels like Raven Flight that restore my faith in trilogies, that make me want to fly to my shelves and read all the other book 2’s lying there.
Refreshingly, we have Neryn furthering her adventure by completing the first half of her quest to meet and learn from the Guardians. The world expands, with the action taking us to the dangerous coastal areas of Alban, and then out to sea to meet the Hag, and then into the northern expanses to see the Lord of the North. It’s absolutely breathtaking, with this alternate, magical Scotland so vividly realised through Marillier’s beautiful prose.
Neyrn is very obviously the YA protagonist I hope I’d be if I was stuck in a place where magic was outlawed and punishable by death, and I was the most powerful practitioner around. She’s incredibly brave, and not always in the run-out-and-fight-warriors kind of way. Neryn’s bravery is the kind that makes her put the cause of the rebellion ahead of her love for Flint, endure her mistreatment at the hands of the Hag, and overcome her abhorrence of her part in the rebellion: to Call the Good Folk forth so they can risk their lives in the final battle. I admire her strength and self-control greatly, and although I know she is far from perfect, I love that Neryn puts every bit of herself into learning to use her powers as a Caller.
The biggest surprise of Raven Flight is the friendship between Tali and Neryn, again because YA fantasies rarely allow young women to form meaningful bonds that have little or nothing to do with the men surrounding them. Of course there is friction in the beginning, since Tali was forced to leave Regan and she was decidedly unhappy about that, but the natural acceptance, fondness and friendship that arose between the two travelling companions is great to witness. I think the brilliance of it is that they provide a perfect counterpoint to one another – Tali’s readiness to kill for the cause is balanced by Neryn’s reluctance and vice versa.
No review can be written about this book without mentioning Flint. Flint, who struggles with his daily betrayals and the deaths of the troops who trusted him. Flint, who walks a dangerous line as the hated King’s closest and most trusted confidante. Flint, who is one of the founders of the rebellion at Shadowfell. Who loves Neryn with everything in his being and fears that love will one day doom them both. What an amazing character. I hope there’s happy ending somewhere for him.
In Shadowfell, King Kaldec was this amorphous blob of evil: he was a Bad Man because everyone said he was, because he had killed Neryn’s family. Marillier cleverly engineers the plot of Raven Flight to show us first hand why Kaldec needs to be overthrown – Neryn finds herself with a front row seat when the King decides to punish anyone who has displeased him at the Gathering. This was the most uncomfortable part of the book for me. Although it’s not as gruesome scenes I’ve read in other books, there’s something about how deranged the King is, and how the citizens cheer the violence, that disturbed me.
I know many people have a problem with the pacing of Raven Flight – the general consensus in other reviews seems to be that although Shadowfell could be forgiven for the perceived slowness of its plot, its sequel cannot. That view genuinely baffles me, because the series has always been about a slow build-up to an outright war. It has always been imperative that the rebels do not tip their hand. Everything unfolds slowly, carefully, and methodically. I had no issues with the pacing and found it hard to stop reading once I had begun.
I do have a few issues with this book, however, and will mention them briefly because they are minor, and because this review is getting long. Firstly, everyone likes Neryn. The only people who didn’t instantly like her are Tali and Silver, and Tali has now changed her tune. I’m not saying that Neryn shouldn’t be liked by others, but it’s just a bit worrying that she’s instantly liked wherever she goes. Secondly, it’s become clear that the Shadowfell trilogy will be s straight-forward fantasy adventure about a girl who saves the world with the help of a cast of secondary characters. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I guess I’ve gotten used to reading books that include clever subversions of fantasy tropes, and was expecting it here as well.
But, all that doesn’t change the fact that I loved it and I’m sure you will too! Cleverly written, with real, relatable characters and set in a gorgeous world, Raven Flight is an excellent sequel, and it will, no doubt, leave readers desperate for (what is sure to be) the epic conclusion to the series.
Which makes it all the more horrible that the paperback publication of The Caller has been postponed indefinitely, although the e-book edition may still be available later this year.