Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on September 26th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
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A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.
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.
An Enchantment of Ravens » Sierra's Thoughts
I must have been a faerie in my past life because this book made me feel nothing. It's a pity because it has such an interesting premise and I really thought I would enjoy it. Another reviewer compared the setting and atmosphere of the novel to Uprooted, which is one of my absolute favorite books of all time, so I was pumped.
While I do agree with that assessment, it wasn't enough to save the book for me.
WARNING: I may sound like a Love-Grinch, here...
In order to like this book, you have to be rooting for Isobel and Rook's love story. But... WHAT LOVE STORY?! How did it even happen?! Somehow, the process of them falling in love completely slipped by me.
When I started the book, I thought Isobel was a great character. She was not only an extremely talented artist but also a clever young woman...
Now, in the book, human crafts are traded for faerie enchantments. However, you have to be very careful about how you word these enchantments because the faeries enjoy tricking humans and finding ways to subvert those enchantments. Our heroine, Isobel, always thought these enchantments through and made sure that they benefited her whole family — her Aunt Emma and random goat-sisters. She was smart.
Alas, all good things come to an end because she meets a prince and feelings happen.
"This wasn't like me. So many years of being cautious, and in a matter of minutes I'd started slipping up."
DAMN YOU, ISOBEL. I refuse to believe that years of dedicated attention to detail can fall by the wayside as soon as she gets a crush. Shouldn't some kind of cognitive muscle-memory kick in?
Here's a quote where Isobel does some self-reflection on this matter:
"Now I have to tell you how foolish I am. Before that gray and lifeless time following Rook's departure, I'd always scoffed at stories in which maidens pine for their absent suitors, boys they've hardly known a week and have no business falling for. Didn't they realize their lives were worth more than the dubious affection of one silly young man? That there were things to do in a world that didn't revolve solely around their heartbreak? Then it happens to you and you understand you aren't any different from those girls after all. Oh, they still seem just as absurd - you've simply joined them, in quite a humbling way."
Here's the thing. I can actually buy into this. Ellen can tell you, I pine like no other. However, unlike the readers of this story, Ellen knows every searing detail behind the pining. (She may not want to, but she does.)
In An Enchantment of Ravens, we have no idea why the pining is happening. Isobel meets Rook; Rook saves Isobel; Isobel starts slipping up; Rook sits for portrait; Rook is vain, Rook pays Isobel in enchanted ravens; (*BAM*) Isobel is in love with Rook. And all this happens within the first four chapters...
As I read on, though, I realized that there is a redeeming quality in Isobel. She does eventually realize that infatuation is different from love and is able to discern that within herself.
But by that point, I had lost my investment in the characters. In the book, we never really figure out why or how Isobel and Rook fall in love. And because their love is the driving force behind the plot and action of the book, I wasn't very invested in those things, either.
Plot, Pacing, and the Rest
The plot of this book is predictable. If you are familiar with its genre, you will see the plot twists coming a mile away. Nothing surprised me. As for the pacing, it was a little all over the place, but it didn't detract from the overall story.
The main issue I had with this novel, is the way the author seemed to hide pieces of information from the reader for no apparent reason. Have you ever had a friend, in your childhood, who would start to give you something and then just snatch it away at the last second? That's what it felt like. (I'm not friends with that person anymore.)
For example, Isobel references the trauma of her parents' death a few times, even in a discussion with her aunt (who was also shaken up by what had happened), but nobody — not the author, not Isobel, not the aunt — ever goes into any details about what occurred. It was infuriating!
Even though An Enchantment of Ravens is supposed to be a stand-alone novel, it could be expanded into a series. Maybe that's where we'll learn what happened to Isobel's parents. I don't think I will pick up a sequel. However, I do think I will give this author another try if she publishes an unrelated novel.