I read this book a while ago as part of the March 2020 read-along of the books and tea book club, and even if it wasn’t something I might have found on my own, I had fun reading it !
An Enchantment of Ravens is YA author Margaret Rogerson‘s first novel, published in 2017 – you might also know her from her second YA fantasy novel, Sorcery of thorns, published last summer.
With a flick of her paintbrush, Isobel creates stunning portraits for a dangerous set of clients: the fair folk. These immortal creatures cannot bake bread or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and they trade valuable enchantments for Isobel’s paintings. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—Isobel makes a deadly mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes, a weakness that could cost him his throne, and even his life.
Furious, Rook spirits Isobel away to his kingdom to stand trial for her crime. But something is seriously amiss in his world, and they are attacked from every side. With Isobel and Rook depending upon each other for survival, their alliance blossoms into trust, perhaps even love… a forbidden emotion that would violate the fair folks’ ruthless laws, rendering both their lives forfeit.
What I liked
The magic system in this book felt very new to me, but it might be because I haven’t been reading a lot of YA fantasy lately – if you’ve read books with the same kind of magic system, please feel free to recommend it in the comments !
In Rogerson’s world, the Fair Folk are physically unable to use any sort of creative ability – what they call Craft, and what they so desperately crave from humans. The village the MC comes from specializes in providing such Craft, in exchange for enchantments given from the Fair Folk – but all magic comes at a price, and the Fair Folk’s magic is especially tricky. If you don’t make a specific, clear, and loophole-free demand, the enchantment you asked for will be turned against you, and could lead to serious harm – or even death.
I loved the sharp wit of the main character at the beginning of the book, and the way she managed to exercise her Craft and sell it to the Fair Folk without falling into any of these possibly deadly loopholes that could be used against her and her family. (And her little sisters were the cutest). We so often see characters who take up the offer of immortality as soon as it appears, without a second thought or a “hey, could I regret this in the future?” that her determination to hold on to her ideals and her stubborn refusal of immortality, even if it might mean death for her, were refreshing to see.
The portrayal of the Fae as more cruel, alien-ish beings than in most other fantasy stories where Fae are just, well… very beautiful and immortal humans, also felt original and added a lot to the overall atmosphere of the story. I liked discovering their inhuman characteristics,the way they looked lie under their glamour or the depth – or absence – of their actual emotions.
I don’t want to give out any spoilers, but I enjoyed the plot twists a lot, and the ending surprised me without being disappointing in a Game of thrones level of subverting-your-expectations (Ugh. Let’s never talk about that again.)
What I didn’t like
I wasn’t such a fan of the romance at the center of the story, to be honest – but that’s probably because I’m not easily sold on romances in action-heavy books. This one wasn’t an insta-love romance, but I still found it a little too fast for me, which made it a little difficult to believe in : as soon as the prince appears on the page, you can see where the story is headed.
I also wasn’t a big fan of the context in which this love develops – for all intents and purposes, Isobel is essentially captured by the prince to be condemned in his kingdom, and something about falling in love with your captor while running for your life and hoping he doesn’t led you to your untimely death is… a bit icky to me.
With a great worldbuilding and lore, and a plot that always keeps you on your toes (except for the romance part), this book is a very fun YA fantasy suited for anyone who likes Fae stories and journey-centric novels, sprinkled with a little add-on of cheesy romance on top.
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