Friday, June 16, 2017

An Enchantment of Ravens

Isobel is one of the most sought after portrait artists in Whimsy, a city between the human and fae lands. She lives there with her aunt Emma and her sister March and May, twin girls who used to be goats before the fair folk changed their lives. Isobel supports her family with her Craft and is paid in enchantments. Her patron Gadfly, a delightful and frivolous fae, warns her of the arrival of Rook, the prince of the Autumn Court. She becomes infatuated with him during the course of painting his infuriating portrait that always has something off around the eyes. Finally figuring out the detail, she sends along the painting only to find later that she depicted a deep, human sorrow in his eyes. He abducts her from her house and plans to take her to his realm to stand trial for the transgression, only to be taken way off course by fairy beasts, creeping rot, the Wild Hunt, and other assorted chaos. Will Isobel ever make it back home to her family? Will Rook ever gain back his people's respect?

An Enchantment of Ravens is my favorite read of this year. The writing is poetic, the worldbuilding dazzles, plus the characters and romance are well developed. Right from the beginning of the novel. I was sucked into the story right from the beginning because of Margaret Rogerson's unique world. Her take on the fair folk and the rules of her world are like nothing I've ever seen. Humans create Crafts like cooking, art, and music that the fair folk covet above all things. Fairies will die if they attempt to create anything of the sort, but surround themselves with these things anyway. The age of the Craft doesn't matter as fairies can glamour it to look as it did when it was new. The fae pay humans in enchantments that need to be carefully worded or they could ruin lives with their trickster ways. On the other hand, enchantments can provide food, protection, and other necessities for human life. Humans need to be cautious living in Whimsy because of fairy whims and all carry iron somewhere on them for protection.

The fair folk live for centuries and have no concept of time, but feel very little emotion. Human emotion is frowned upon and seen as weakness, opening up opportunites for other fae to take what they have. Despite this, the veneer of manners and composure are paramount to their kind. They have to respond to niceties like bowing, responding in kind to thank yous, and so on. The fair folk are beautiful, but alien, selfish, and cruel underneath their glamour. Each fae has one flaw in their glamour that sets them apart from humans whether it's fingers that are too long, emaciation, or height. The Spring Court is the only fairy court we see and it seems beautiful and fantastic at first until the horrific, cruel elements are revealed over time. The power of true names works both ways in this world where knowing it gives the person absolute power over another no matter if they are human or fey. Rogerson takes well known rules of fairies, gives them a twist, and adds her own unique ones to create a singular, detailed fantastical world.

The characters and their relationships are incredibly well drawn. Isobel is a practical, serious person forced to grow up early in life. She has been making portraits for the fair folk most of her life, so she has a healthy caution about them. Every time one comes in for a portrait, she's careful to be polite and as inoffensive as possible. The enchantments she earns are carefully worded because she knows their mischief could be disastrous to her and her family. Although her sisters are magicked goats, she loves them all the same and cares for them unconditionally. Over the course of the story, she demonstrates cleverness, ingenuity, and compassion. I love a heroine with a strong will, realistic familial connections, and good sense. All of her decisions are not always the best, but she has a good head on her shoulders that serves her well throughout the novel.

Her romance with Rook starts as a sudden infatuation based on his carefully crafted facade. When he shows who he truly is, Isobel understandably hates him because he's petty, vain, and inhuman. Over the course of their journey, they both reveal what's under their respective protective shells while fighting to protect each other and navigating fae lands infected with rot, fae society, and numerous enemies. Love kind of sneaks up on them when they weren't looking. Their declarations aren't poetic or idealistic and they disagree and see things they don't like in each other, but they grow to love by getting to know each other. I haven't read such a good romance in a while. The Good Law condemns fae and human lovers to death and one solution to this problem is the Green Well, which has the power to turn a human into a fairy. Isobel soundly rejects this because of all she would lose, namely her art. It's not just a interesting detail to flesh her out or be forgotten; it's an intrinsic part of her character that she isn't willing to compromise on, even in the face of the death. Her art is also used in integral plot points and even the finale of the novel.

I could write so much more about An Enchantment of Ravens because I loved every bit of it. I wanted to read it super fast to see what happened, but also wanted to savor the world slowly. I've been reading a lot lately and this one amazed me. I had to be left alone to read the last 100 pages so I could find out what happened with tears streaming down my face. I'm disappointed to see it's a stand alone novel, but I hope other stories will take place in that world. Margaret Rogerson has made me a lifelong fan with this one book and I can't recommend it highly enough.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

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