A prodigy artist. An Autumn Prince. An adventure across seasons.
In a small village called Whimsy, where Summer reigns all year round, there lives a young portrait artist called Isobel. Her Craft gives her life purpose and this is evident in her paintings, so much so that they are highly prized amongst the Fair Folk. Since the Fae themselves cannot create, human Craft is craved amongst them, and they are willing to pay in enchantments just to get a small taste of it. One day Isobel receives her first royal patron, none other than Rook, the Autumn Prince. However she makes a terrible mistake when painting human sorrow into his eyes, thus revealing his weakness. Furious, Rook whisks her off to the Autumnland to stand trial and pay for her actions. However, this trip instantly turns into a dangerous journey, with monsters, the Wild Hunt and the Alder King endangering both of their lives and their alliance is the only thing that could lead to their survival.
“Why do we desire, above all other things, that which has the greatest power to destroy us?”
An Enchantment of Ravens has been one of my most anticipated releases of this year, with promise of magic, Fair Folk, adventure and a land where Autumn reigns all year. And it did deliver all of these…and yet it did not live up to the hype surrounding it. Maybe I had really high expectations or I was still reeling after finishing The Secret History, but I was quite disappointed when I finished it.
First of all, this book is quite short for a fantasy story, considering you have to get acquainted with a new world while also describing the characters and plot along the way. Moreover, I think the author did not utilise this short length of the book in an effective way, thus ended up with long stretches of protracted scenes, leaving only a few pages for the good ones. There was also a lot of focus on the journey of the characters, with long descriptive scenes of the forest and the surroundings, and while I did enjoy reading them, I would have liked to learn more about the actual plot and the world as well. I usually adore slow paced books but I think this story dragged a lot and didn’t motivate me to read that much…hence why it took me so long to finish it.
One of the things that I truly enjoyed was the writing. Margaret Rogerson has such a wonderful talent in weaving intricate sentences that conjure up scenes of flaming Fall leaves littering the forest floor, or of hot summer days of endless blue skies and golden wheat fields. She is able to breath life to each season with every word, making the forest alive in a riot of colours, beauty and power. Having said that, while descriptions of the setting were abundant, I was hoping for more world building especially into the laws governing the Fair folk, the World Beyond and what sets this apart from the other lands. I am still filled with so many questions about the Fair Folk, where they came from, why the Alder King came to be so powerful or why human craft has such a devastating effect on them.
Also, in terms of writing, I extremely appreciated the author’s astute descriptions of Isobel’s talent, from the in-depth way that she explained how she made the paint from scratch to the blending of colours. She truly motivated me to pick up my pencils and paper and start drawing again!
“It’s difficult to explain what happens when I pick up a charcoal stick or a paintbrush. I can tell you the world changes. I see things one way when I’m not working, and an entirely different way when I am. Faces become not-faces, structures composed of light and shadow, shapes and angles and texture. The deep luminous glow of an iris where the light hits it from the window becomes exquisitely compelling. I hunger for the shadow that falls diagonally across my subject’s collar, the fine lighter filaments in his hair ablaze like thread-of-gold. My mind and hand become possessed. I paint not because I want to, not because I’m good at it, but because it is what I must do, what I live and breathe, what I was made for.”
I also extremely enjoyed the author’s rendition of the Fair Folk, giving them such unique attributes that made them appear both formidable and alluring. To mention a few, the Fair Folk are incapable of lying, appear quite flawless in appearance due to the use of glamour to hide their inhuman looks underneath, attempting human craft is fatal to them and they also cannot feel human emotions. The author contrived this mysterious aura around them, reminiscent of their own glamour, that one cannot truly decide if they are good or evil- if such an argument is valid considering they are not even human.
“A road stretched before us and behind us. The fair folk cavorted along it in a line, pale forms flickering like sepulchral flames, a procession of ghosts. The forest rose on either side of the path, but it wasn’t the same forest that existed in the world we had been in before. The trees were as big around as houses. Roots rose from the ground at such a height I wouldn’t have been able to climb them if I’d tried. The fair folks’ white luminosity cast flittering shadows across the bark.”
Isobel is quite an engaging character and wonderful to read from her perspective. She is hard-working and intuitive, never failing to do her utmost in protecting her family with enchantments received as payments for her paintings. She also craves adventure and something different from her predictable routine and endless days of summer. But along the way she slowly turns into the usual cliched heroine, loosing all reason in her infuriating infatuation for a prince she only just met. Because the dreaded insta-love unfortunately makes an appearance and it instantly became the main focus of the story. I found it so disappointing when such an interesting concept-of Isobel painting mortal sorrow in Rook’s eyes- ended up being just a thinly-veiled plot device for these two characters to fall head over heels for each other when there was no actual chemistry between them. The love confessions were laughable at best, especially seeing how they were never given a chance to slowly grow in character and as a couple. Basically the romance took over the whole plot which is quite sad considering all the potential routes this book could have taken.
Rook is an interesting character with many layers to uncover. Despite his lack of human emotions, there are still human attributes to his personality, mainly his arrogance and pride, along with his deep love for Autumn. He is also good-natured and sometimes surprisingly well attuned to the feelings of others, apologising profusely when he thinks he’s offended someone. I appreciated his respect towards Isobel’s wishes and never attempted to push her boundaries without asking her first. Rook also has the power to shape shift and I actually found Isobel’s interactions with him as an animal quite endearing to read. Despite all this, he has an aura of mystery surrounding him and there are so many things that we never get to know about him. I guess this is quite fitting seeing how closed-off he is as a character, but this in-turn deprives the reader from fully connecting with him. I wanted to learn more about his past, get to know him better just so I could actually care about him.
Secondary characters are as important as the main characters, but for the same reason mentioned above, this book was too short and there was no time for the author to focus more on Isobel’s family or the other Fair Folk mentioned later on in the story. Aster was the only character that I had some sort of connection with, but like the rest of the characters, she was put in the sidelines and only mentioned briefly. In my opinion, books that focus on their ensemble cast of secondary characters put fresh light on the main theme of the story, and without their perspective, the story would lack credibility and creativity.
Sadly I didn’t like the ending of this book, mainly because it felt quite rushed and convenient. The way the author dealt with the evil Alder-king and his oppressive laws lacked any inspiring or intricate plot and there were so many loose ends that I kept asking myself if this book was actually part of a series (which is not).
Overall I found this book underwhelming and disappointing, which is quite sad considering how much potential it had. While I enjoyed the writing, it failed to deliver a proper fantasy story with intricate world building, character growth and a realistic relationship. However I would still recommend it to those people who love slow-paced journey books… and insta-love!
Rating: ☆☆ [2.5 stars]
- Genre: Young Adult- Fantasy, Romance
- Edition: Margaret K. McElderry Book, September 2017, Hardback
- Source: Book Depository