Monthly Marillier: “Raven Flight”

“Monthly Marillier” is a review series that is, essentially, an excuse for me to go back and re-read one of my favorite author’s back catalog. Ever since I first discovered her work over fifteen years ago, Juliet Marillier has been one of my favorite authors. Her stories are the perfect mixture of so many things I love: strong heroines, beautiful romances, fairytale-like magic, and whimsical writing. Even better, Marillier is a prolific author and has regularly put out new books almost once a year since I began following her. I own almost all of them, and most of those I’ve read several times. Tor began re-releasing her original Sevenwaters trilogy, so that’s all the excuse I needed to begin a new series in which I indulge myself in a massive re-read of her books. I’ll be posting a new entry in this series on the first Friday of every month.

Book: “Raven Flight” by Juliet Marillier

Publishing Info: Knopf Books for Young Readers, July 2013

Where Did I Get this Book: own it

Book Description: Neryn has finally found the rebel group at Shadowfell, and now her task is to seek out the elusive Guardians, vital to her training as a Caller. These four powerful beings have been increasingly at odds with human kind, and Neryn must prove her worth to them. She desperately needs their help to use her gift without compromising herself or the cause of overthrowing the evil King Keldec.

Neryn must journey with the tough and steadfast Tali, who looks on Neryn’s love for the double agent Flint as a needless vulnerability. And perhaps it is. What Flint learns from the king will change the battlefield entirely—but in whose favor, no one knows. 

Previously Review: “Shadowfell”

Review: Back when I read this for the first time, I remember being a bit hesitant going into the second book in Marillier’s YA “Shadowfell” trilogy. I had enjoyed the first one for the most part, but there were a few flags (particularly with the romance and some of the heroine’s decision making) that made me nervous to see how this story would continue to unfold over the entire two books left to complete Neryn’s story. Luckily, this book was the breath of fresh air the trilogy needed and went to prove that sometimes the second book is not only NOT the worst in a trilogy but can even help lift the series up beyond its own lackluster start.

Shortly after arriving at Shadowfell, Neryn realizes that it is her destiny to travel beyond its confines in an effort to prove herself capable of wielding the land’s powerful magical forces. To do so, she must convince four magical guardians who have always looked down with much judgement on the foolishness of humans. Travelling alongside her is her companion and warrior friend, Tali. Together, the two must travel to the furthest realms of north, south, east and west in hopes to gain these powerful beings’ blessing and lessons. But will Neryn be strong enough to convince them? And will they, like Tali, see Neryn’s beloved, Flint, as a weakness in her quest to overthrow Keldec?

There were a few things that stood out in my re-read that pointed to why I enjoyed this book so much more than the first. First off, I think the replacement of Flint with Tali as Neryn’s travelling companion works better on many levels. The romance in this trilogy as a whole is probably one of my least favorites of all of Marillier’s many excellent romantic pairings, so frankly, less Flint/Neryn interactions were a win for me. These two need to get their act together, and while they are both better here than in the first book, I still found myself often annoyed with their dramatics.

Tali, on the other hand, instead of highlighting some of Neryn’s more nonsensical moments, spoke the harsh truths that had been missing and had left me eye-rolling my way through the first book. Neryn is still often rather weak-willed and self-focused, all too willing to hesitate and dither over using her powers, more concerned with potentially moral grey areas than with saving the real people before her (or the larger rebel cause as a whole.) Gruff, tough, Tali has no patience for this type of dithering and often lectures Neryn on how Neryn’s Caller abilities are all that give the rebellion a hope of winning and that Neryn will need to harden herself to the fact that people die in wars. Tali was probably my favorite addition to the story. Not only did she say what I was thinking so much of the time, but I always like this type of rough-and-ready character who takes a while to warm up to both the reader and the other characters that surround her.

I also enjoyed the format of this story more than the first. While I like a good journey book as much as the next LOTR fan, “Shadowfell” too often stumbled in its pacing in this area to be successful. “Raven Flight” calls on another favorite fantasy trope: magical tasks. Always love these, and Marillier does an excellent job here. The Guardians we meet are all unique and intriguing, and the challenges they set for Neryn are appropriately grueling. There is one, in particular, that seems to almost break Neryn, and Marillier’s talent as a writer quite deftly portrays the dire straights that Neryn finds herself in.

Overall, I very much enjoyed this second book. It’s quite good on its own, and, honestly, the improvement over the first works to lift it even further in my estimation. I think many fans of Maillier’s work breathed a sigh of relief when this book came out, again reassured that she had not lost her touch.

Rating 8: The de-emphasis on the romance and the addition of the warrior woman Tali greatly increased my enjoyment of this second outing in the “Shadowfell” trilogy.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Raven Flight” is on these Goodreads lists: Best Fantasy Books Under the Radar and Fairy Tale Fantasy with a Touch of Romance.

Find “Raven Flight” at your library using WorldCat or at a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!

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