An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
Published January 13th 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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. 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—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight 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.
I didn’t really intend for my past week’s reads to all be books on the fae, but somehow that’s the way it turned out, and, well, I’m really not complaining. Give me aaaallllll the fae books!!
But. So. Yes. An Enchantment of Ravens.
“Somehow I’ve even grown fond of your – your irritating questions, and your short legs, and your accidental attempts to kill me.”
The writing is really. Smooth? Is that the word? I can’t think up a better one at the moment, but it flows so nicely, one thing into the other, a gentle, meandering sort of prose that’s really just suited to the story – reads like a real fairytale. An Enchantment of Ravens isn’t without its flaws – and yeah, there are many, starting but not limited to the jolt that was the beginning of their relationship, the fact that Rook is endearing but childishly so, and Isobel is headstrong and mature, her feet firmly on the ground, and call me a cynic but that all but spells a recipe for future disaster, the entirely transparent “morally grey” character, and the entirely too neat, glossing, two-paragraph summary that was the ending – but the writing leads you gently through them, has you enjoying the story just the same.
The worldbuilding is dynamic and glamorously rich, Gadfly’s court a balance of luxurious and unsettling, and Isobel’s family unruly and endearing and so, so precious. An Enchantment of Ravens treats arts, treats Crafts with the gentlest, daintiest hand – the descriptions of Isobel’s creations, especially while she was painting them, almost made me want to pick up the brush as well. I mean. Until I remember that I’m absolutely positively awful at the fine arts. Miserably so, really. A tragedy.
Rook’s a little surly, entirely vain, but it works for him. Maybe a little too well. It’s adorable, really, and throughout the novel, all I could picture was a disgruntled-looking raven with his head halfway-stuck through a barely-opened window, or in the later chapters, as the book so aptly puts it, a cat watching its favorite furniture get moved without its permission. (Also, Rook re: his not-brown-but-copper outfit is me re: my fifty shades of navy shirts)
Isobel is practical and dependable, clever and adaptable. She’s careful and considerate in an almost crafty sort of way. I wish her all the best things in life, including omelets for breakfast every morning, to her heart’s desire.
(I had this niggling thought throughout the novel, stronger in hindsight, that Isobel’s too much Rook’s savior, too much Rook’s caretaker for them to live happily-beyond-the-ending. Also, another niggling-thought-turned-clear-hindsight-revelation: the plot’s pretty convoluted? It sets off doing one thing, but halfway through shifts axes completely? The journeying and court-hopping was interesting to read about, but woah – in hindsight, that wasn’t what was explained to us at all.)
An Enchantment of Ravens had an almost melodramatic flourish at times, but it was coupled with bursts of oddity – goat sister arguments, Rook’s unexpected and disgruntled childishness and/or vanity, Isobel sitting on a sword to end an argument – that, somehow, the overall tone didn’t seem too bad, too over-the-top.
So, all in all, An Enchantment of Ravens wasn’t a perfect read, but the writing was beautiful and engaging and, dare I say, made up or otherwise covered for a significant portion of the story’s faults. It’s pretty. It’s whimsical. And that cover? To die for.