I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on September 26 2017
Genres: Young adult, Fantasy
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The nitty-gritty: A heady combination of romance and simmering danger make this an irresistible story, set in the realm of faerie.
I really enjoyed this book, and even though I read a bunch of negative/unenthusiastic reviews before I got around to it, I was pleasantly surprised by both the story and Margaret Rogerson’s beautiful writing. Yes, this is a YA fantasy/romance, and there’s no escaping that. If you don’t enjoy romance-heavy stories, then this probably isn’t going to work for you. But even without the romance, there’s plenty to love. Rogerson takes much of the fey mythology that you may be familiar with—the fey use glamours to make themselves appear beautiful to humans, they possess the ability to ensorcel humans and make them do their bidding—but she’s added her own twist to those elements. The fair folk in this story are mesmerized by humans’ ability to create “Craft,” and they seek artisans of the highest talent to paint their portraits, create beautiful clothes and more. You see, fair folk cannot do Craft themselves, or they will die.
Isobel lives with her two little sisters March and May and her aunt in the town of Whimsey, which lies on the border of the realm of the fair folk. Her family is lucky, because Isobel is a talented portrait artist, and her ability to do Craft is highly regarded among the upper echelons of the fair folk. They come to her to have their portraits painted, and in exchange, they grant Isobel wishes. In this way her family always has chickens that lay eggs, plenty of food, and even magical protection around their house.
One day Isobel gets a surprise visit from Rook, the autumn prince. Isobel is immediately attracted to Rook, despite his surly manner, but unfortunately, she makes a grave error while painting his portrait. She sees the sorrow in his eyes and adds it to the painting, not realizing that it is a crime to portray the fair folk showing human emotion. When Rook sees his portrait, he is livid, and he insists that Isobel accompany him to the autumn court to face trial for her crime.
Compelled by magic to follow Rook, Isobel has no choice but to leave her home and family. But the journey to the autumnlands is full of danger, and when the Wild Hunt nearly kills them both, Isobel and Rook must run for their lives. As they make their way through the mystical lands of the fair folk, their attraction to each other grows. But unless Isobel agrees to drink from the Green Well and become a fair folk herself, their romance is doomed.
Having just read The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, I found lots of similarities between the two stories, and I fear I’m mixing them up in my head! One element that both books do very well is to portray the fair folk as duplicitous and cruel, no matter how friendly they may seem. They use glamours to cover up their true appearance, and I loved the parts where Rook’s glamour slips and Isobel sees what he actually looks like: tattered clothes, pointy teeth and all. Isobel realizes that everything about the fair folk is a lie, as they glamour themselves to appear beautiful and ethereal, drawing humans in like moths to a flame. I loved the menacing undertone throughout the story, and no matter how powerful Rook is, he may not be able to protect Isobel from the rest of the fair folk.
I enjoyed Isobel as a character, and her best feature was her dedication to her art. She cannot live without painting, and when she is eventually faced with the temptation of taking a drink from the Green Well, she steadfastly declares that her Craft is too important to her, and if she were to become one of the fair folk, then of course she would never be able to paint again. Naturally this comes at a time when she and Rook have admitted their feelings for each other, and therein lies their dilemma.
Which brings me to the romance. I knew going in that the romantic aspects of the story would be front and center, and so I simply enjoyed it for what it was.Yes, Isobel and Rook fall in love a little too fast, but I thought overall it was very well done. Rogerson puts her characters in plenty of danger, so to me the romance didn’t feel overblown. There is also a twist in that Rook has been in love with a mortal before, and he still wears the raven pin that she gave him. Isobel doesn’t quite know what to do with this information when she finds out, but I thought her reaction was natural and believable.
I also liked that the author doesn’t focus on the trial–the book blurb makes it seem like it’s the main storyline. Instead, she sends Isobel and Rook on a dark journey through the various lands of the fair folk. They visit the different faerie courts–summer, winter, spring and autumn–always on the run from the Wild Hunt. And in each one, Isobel marvels at the wonderful seasonal changes that she misses from living in Whimsey (a town frozen in perpetual summer).
There are some interesting surprises near the end of the story, although the ending was a bit too rushed and abrupt for me, and things seem to wrap up just a little too easily. But really, I found this a delightful story with just enough darkness to keep it from becoming too sweet. If you are looking for a tale filled with lots of magical details and you’re ready to embrace some good ol’ YA romance, you will love this book.
Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.