Book: An Enchantment of Ravens
Author: Margaret Rogerson
BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Aster and Isobel talk about books and Craft.
This was my #RockMyTBR book for November, and I actually hadn’t really heard that much about this book going into it, I really only knew that the cover was gorgeous and that it was about faeries, but other than that I didn’t know much. Unfortunately, I didn’t really love it, it weirdly felt both far longer than its 300 pages and like it should have been expanded beyond that length. Not an awful lot really happened, the characters weren’t given the space to be developed properly and neither was the world, so despite the concept being something I should have enjoyed, I didn’t really enjoy it as much as I’d hoped. I mean when a 300 page book takes you almost three weeks, it’s not great is it? Here is a short synopsis of the book:
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.
I’m going to start off with my two biggest problems with the book: the lack of depth, and the pacing, both of which I reckon are tied into each other. If you’re going to do a 300 page book, you really have to be tight with the pacing and I think it’s pretty hard really to get a fantasy book in 300 pages with a well developed world and well developed characters, this was really more middle grade length than YA.
The pacing was incredibly uneven, it was so slow to start off with, and the middle also lagged, but then the end felt incredibly rushed. I think this probably has to do with how short the book was, Rogerson took too long setting everything up and then realised she only had so long to wrap it up, so the ending felt rushed. The chapters were also weirdly long, considering the length of the book, so that made the story feel like it lagged even more.
As for the lack of depth, 300 pages is not a lot to go into major detail about a fantasy world, and maybe this is me and being a bit of a nerd about that kind of thing, but I just felt like this book could have gone into so much more depth about the world. There were so many things I felt weren’t explained, we learn practically nothing about any of the other courts, aside from the Spring Court, the Alder King isn’t really fully explained, we don’t get to learn about any other laws aside from The Good Law, it’s not really explained why Fair Folk can’t use Craft, or why Isobel’s Craft affects them the way it does, the Fair Folk’s powers aren’t really explored much…..I could go on and on, but you get the picture. When I read a fantasy book, I want to come out with a working idea of how the world works and with this one, I just didn’t. I also found it really weird that Rook is the Autumn prince but we never get to see the Autumn Court. The world in general isn’t really explained either, we have Whimsy, the Faerie Lands and the World Beyond, but we don’t know how they are connected, whether they are all separate, whether they are all one thing, how that whole thing works.
The lack of depth also extended to the characters. Isobel started off really promising, feisty, clever, funny but I felt like she kind of faded through the book. Rook, honestly just felt flat to me, and I get that maybe that was the point as the Fair Folk can’t feel human emotions (which is a plot hole when it comes to the whole Good Law thing, because if Fair Folk can’t feel then how could they fall in love with humans?), but it didn’t make him all that interesting to read about. The same goes with all the other Fair Folk.
I also wasn’t that keen on Isobel and Rook’s romance, it felt underdeveloped, I didn’t really feel the chemistry between them, so it’s difficult to feel the stakes of the Good Law, because I wasn’t really invested in them as a couple. Also the hundreds of years age gap, again? REALLY?
There was WAY TOO MUCH JOURNEYING. This book is very much a journey book, and that doesn’t really work for me. I don’t really find endless wandering in the woods very interesting, so for half the book, I was close to falling asleep because I was just so bored reading chapter after chapter of Isobel and Rook wandering in the woods.
I did appreciate the emphasis on consent, with Isobel enforcing that Rook wasn’t allowed to touch her without her consent, though I felt that was kind of undermined by the part where she spied on him bathing, because that kind of undermines the point she made to him.
I wasn’t massively keen on Rogerson’s writing style, I’ve seen a lot of reviewers really loving it, but it was a bit overly descriptive for me. The fun, witty banter saved it from being a complete washout for me, because I do appreciate authors who do dialogue well.
I felt kind of cheated that we didn’t learn Isobel’s true name also.
Honestly there’s not really much more I have to say about this one, it was a nice concept, but lacked content, world-building, and character development. I think it could have been really good, but it was just all crammed into too space and the author wasted a lot of time with journeying rather than exploring and expanding her world.
My Rating: 3/5
My next review will be of my final #RockMyTBR book of the year, Reign of The Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh.