Monday, 7 October 2013

What would you do if you discovered that your uncanny ability to see and speak with creatures of myth and legend cost your entire family their lives? What if you were on the run and the only man you could trust was the right hand man of a despotic ruler? What if you found out there was an underground resistance against said despot and you were the key to restoring justice and goodness to the land of Alban?

Personally, I'd probably sit down and not move for a very long time.
Luckily Neryn, our heroine, is made of stronger stuff than me, despite her appearance. Raven Flight continues her story as her extraordinary ability to summon the Fair Folk brings her to the very center of a vast conflict. The very freedom of Alban lies at stake, and rests upon her fragile shoulders. Her Calling powers could be the key to turning the tide against the sadistic King Keldec -- if only she learned how to control her abilities.

And so while the rebels make ready for the coming battle, she calls upon the Fair Folk to aid them in their preparations. She and the warrior Tali set off from the underground safety of Shadowfell to seek the tutelage of the four Guardians.
I spent so long (five days, exactly) trying to figure out what to say about this book, but all that comes out when I put my fingers on the keyboard is "I love Tali. Tali is the best. Tali spin-off." Sure, she hasn't actually done all that great a job of guarding Neryn like she's supposed to -- Neryn saves their asses two of the three times they nearly get caught, and it's Tali who gets them into trouble the third time around -- but I love her all the same.

Still, this can't just be an ode to Tali (some other post, maybe), so let's try to put some actual meat on this post. 

If you're a Marillier veteran (ahaha, I'm gonna pretend there is such a thing. It is now a thing), don't expect to be left swooning about the beauty of true and steadfast love (and/or weeping about the barren desert of loneliness that is your own sorry lovelife), as one is wont to do after a breathtakingly romantic jaunt in her world.

Raven Flight wisely lets the romance fall by the wayside to focus on the rebellion and Neryn's progress as a Caller. I say wisely, because I was never really too sold on Flint as a love interest. Life at Shadowfell is fascinating and if what exactly the rebels are doing to win freedom is sort of vague, it's more than made up for with the interesting characters that make up the Shadowfell rebellion.

Tali, specifically. In the first book, she comes off as a sour and suspicious warrior lady. Which she is, but there's obviously more to her than that. She gradually warms up to Neryn, but maintains her aloof and stern warrior mien until about the very end, when you realize that underneath all those knives and prickly words, she's just a girl, too. With her rich backstory and her hidden yet rather complicated feelings, she's as much a Marillier heroine as Neryn is.

I'm not going to let all this Tali love cause the Neryn Appreciation Party to fall by the wayside. (Also, announcement: there is now a Neryn Appreciation Party, population: me) After the first book, I wrote her off as bland and forgettable. I suppose it's because most of the first book was her agonizing over her family and falling ill and wafting on whether or not to trust Flint, and all of that got a bit tiresome after a while. This time around, Neryn is set on her path as a Caller and the determination that drove her through her many miseries in book one finally shines out. I'm amazed with her ability to deal with all sorts of crazy shit happening to and around her and still be patient and really nice to everyone. If it were me I'd probably retreat into a cave somewhere and let the world outside fall apart.

Neryn and Tali start out without much of a relationship besides woefully unfit student and training tyrant. When they're forced to journey together, it takes a while for them to get used to each other because everything about Neryn is soft and everything about Tali snarls at you to back the fuck off. I won't go into detail about that one moment where you realize that they've truly grown to care for each other, but I'll admit that it did hit me as hard as Sorcha screaming Red's name for the first time in Daughter of the Forest. And that's saying something.

Along the way, we get to marvel at the sights of Marillier's fantastic new world, and to feel vaguely ill at the mess evil King Keldec has made of it. I have hopes of seeing the Hag and the Lord of the North again, possibly in the final confrontation that seems imminent, because our time with them was pitifully short. We see more of Keldec now, and there appears to be a Lady Macbeth sort of thing going on. His relationship with Flint is interesting, but honestly, Marillier may need to work to elevate Flint as a character, because right now he is far outstripped by his ladylove and the upstart newcomer Tali.

Juliet Marillier has proven to be an expert on writing romance and family drama -- now she shows she's pretty damn good at writing friendship, too, and it truly is magic.


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