Sunday, February 06, 2011

Raven's Heart (Matthew and Stefanie Verish)

Overall: 4.8    ҉
  • Plot: 5/5
  • Originality: 4.5/5
  • Language: 4.5/5
  • Believability: 5/5
Raven's Heart by Matthew and Stefanie Verish

An exiled man wonders if he should forsake his new life and risk returning to his homeland. A troubled girl seeks redemption for a terrible crime she has committed. A solitary tracker breaks an oath in order to communicate with an infamous, supernatural criminal. A vagabond thief chances leaving behind the world he knew for an unknown destiny. An unlikely cast of characters, they are thrown together by chance, or perhaps by fate, willingly embarking upon an eccentric wizard's mission to recover a magical stone: Raven's Heart. A piece of the "Stone of Undoing", Raven's Heart is deadly. Though the stone has the ability to unravel the very essence of magic, it brings Arcturus, Kariayla, Hawkwing, and Jinx together in a mission beyond individual ambition that could determine the fate of the world in which they live.
Genre: Fantasy
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The World of Secramore

This behemoth of a fantasy novel initially seemed like a daunting endeavor due to its immensity. The depth and imagination of its contents, however, made the reading a delight, and the length became a gift in that it ensured that the tale would not end too soon.

The tale begins, as so many do, with a deceptively simple quest: to find one book that will satisfy a man's thirst for historical truth and personal direction. Through a combination of fortune and his own morality, companions are collected, and what was initially a three-step journey becomes an adventure to save all of Secramore.

The development of the plot was flawless, from the completion of each minor task to their interlacing into a larger problem to be solved. Throughout, the pace is set to keep the reader in a state of anticipation — fast enough to avoid alienating the impatient, and slow enough to let one savor the tension. Each of the elements was introduced with a naturalness that made it easy both to absorb and to believe, and I found myself quickly immersed in this fantastical realm.

In truth, the strength of Raven's Heart lies within the authors' attention to detail. Though hard to pinpoint where the distinctions lay, it was quickly evident that the names of individual people groups and their citadels reflected a great deal of the race's personalities and culture. For the Markanturians, for instance, their nomenclature melds well with the intellectualism, ethics, and aristocratic tendencies that govern their society. They are subtle, but these small attentions help the reader to assimilate these foreign ideas as truths.

Characterizations were another area in which this book excels. It was inevitable that the characters would change over the course of a long journey, but the maturation process was one that made sense. At its core, each persona remained true to itself: Arcturos' selfish tendencies and self-righteousness did not simply disappear, yet he did learn to recognize them instead of continuing in ignorance of his own flaws. Instead of choosing long discourse to dissect motivations and attitudes, the authors opted to use the past and present not only to advance the plot but also to enrich one's understanding of who these "people" are.

There is much more praise, and little criticism, that I could lay upon this work, but in the interest of brevity, I will make a only few more comments. The sketches that appear every few chapters are remarkably detailed, as is the map provided at the start of the book. There were two or three instances where the absence of proper subjunctive use was glaringly obvious, but aside from these missteps and less than a handful of typographical errors, the writing of this novel left little to be desired. It is well-executed storytelling, similar to that of Brian Jacques, and I eagerly await the next installment of what is likely become a very well-loved series.

(Review copy provided by the authors)


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