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Book: “Raven Unveiled” by Grace Draven
Publishing Info: Ace Books, November 2022
Where Did I Get this Book: Edelweiss+!
Book Description: Siora has been on the run for longer than she cares to remember, from her past and her gift. Born with the ability to see and speak to ghosts, she has heard their desperate pleas as an otherworldly predator stalks the dead amid the fertile killing fields of the collapsing Krael Empire. The creature’s power and reach are growing with every soul it consumes, but Siora is preoccupied with her own troubles: namely an assassin who has sworn an oath of vengeance against her.
Gharek of Cabast was once the right-hand man of the reviled empress but is now a wanted fugitive. Although his reasons for hunting Siora are viscerally personal, what Gharek can’t anticipate is that when he finally does find her, she will hold the key to saving his world, or what’s left of it. To make good on old debts and protect the vulnerable dead from a malevolent force, Gharek and Siora will both need to make an ally out of an enemy—and trust that will be enough to save each other.
Review: I’ve really enjoyed the, at this point, many books I’ve read by Grace Draven. She has a fairly significant back catalog that I have been slowly working my way through. But it’s also been fun to read her “Fallen Empire” trilogy as it’s been published in real time. So far, I’ve really liked both of the books in this trilogy. We’re introduced to the main characters for this book back in “Dragon Unleashed,” so I was already primed with excitement to get to their story here. Plus, who doesn’t love a good old “enemies to lovers” romance??
Siora had finally felt as if she had a place and the beginnings of a home. But then, in an effort to save lives, including that of her young war, Siora was forced to betray the man who had taken her in. For his part, Gharek is not one to forget and forgive. While he is a wanted man by many for his role as the late queen’s assassin, he is still driven with one goal and one goal only: find the woman who betrayed his, and his daughter’s, trust. But as they race in a game of cat and mouse, Siora and Gharek begin to realize that larger forces are moving in the world and they have to trust one another if they have any hope of overcoming it.
So, shocking take here given everything I already said about this author and this series so far but…yeah, I really enjoyed this one! Ok? Ok, review done? But in all seriousness, it’s always so great to find an author who consistently churns out enjoyable books. I’ve definitely had preferences and favorites, but I’ve never actively disliked a book by Graven. And this trilogy in particular has been very consistent throughout: great individual stories, great characters, great love stories, and an interesting world and history that connects them all.
By the third book in the trilogy, readers should be very familiar with all of these elements, and in a lot of ways it was like returning to a cozy, favorite place. Don’t get me wrong, this world is brutal and cruel. But as a reader, it’s also full of lovely characters and stories, and by the time you get to the third book, you’re on constant look out for returning faces. The fear, then, is that the new characters could be washed out by older characters. But Gharek and Siora definitely hold strong on their own.
I found Siora’s character and her story particularly compelling. Hers is a tale of long experience living on the outside of society. But through these experiences, and the influence of her late father, she has developed a keen sense of right and wrong. So devoted to this path, she follows these instincts even when they work against her own best interest. Indeed, this is what has lead to the situation she finds herself in now: on the run from her late employer, Gharek. For his part, Gharek’s journey is much more introspective. His role and position in the world has been pulled out from beneath him. He’s still a father, but he is barely able to understand how to be that (or any other loving role) without falling back on the destructive tendencies that had made him successful. He loves his daughter more than anything, but then to express this he leaves her behind in pursuit of revenge that she didn’t ask for. This, of course, also is seen in his growing relationship and feelings towards Siora.
The pacing and action of this book does stumble a bit. For one thing, though we get a decent amount of time with Siora and Gharek together, I found myself always wishing for more. Maybe it was the many stages that this relationship needed to go through, but I found that each of these stages could have used a bit more fleshing out. I also stumbled a bit with the “big bad” of this story. In the past two books, the Empress was a very present evil. We saw her repeatedly and her influence on everyone and her kingdom was obvious. But this book opens with her having been dealt with already. And then the evil that we do end up with is of a much more nebulous sort. The danger was unique, the way that Siora’s death powers played into this was cool, but I just found myself lacking real investment in this storyline.
Overall, however, I really liked this book. Siora and Gharek have a lovely romance, and in a lot of ways, it checks off many of my favorite tropes. The actual plotting of this book was probably not my favorite of the three, but it was also by no means bad. I flew through this book in only a few days and highly recommend it to fantasy romance fans (as part of the entire trilogy, of course!)
Rating 8: An excellent conclusion to the trilogy, but I found the love story more compelling than the actual plot of hte book.
“Raven Unveiled” isn’t on any Goodreads lists yet, but it should be on “Characters Who Hide Their Powers.”