My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Length: 300 pages
Release date: 26 September 2017
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.
‘”No. You surpass us all.” Beside me she looked colourless and frail. “You are like a living rose among wax flowers. We may last forever, but you bloom brigher and smell sweeter, and draw blood with your thorns.”‘
I have read few more convincing vindications of humanity’s imperfection than An Enchantment of Ravens. Some reviews liken Rogerson’s debut to A Court of Thorns and Roses, but I don’t really find it a fair comparison. Similarities between the two books are mostly superficial and lie on the aesthetic side of things: When it comes to the message that each book is trying to say, Ravens effortlessly takes the cake. If anything, it bears a far greater resemblance to Cruel Beauty, excelling more at sorting through the abstract meaning of a romance than at depicting the central romance itself.
The major flaw of this novel is that it lacks focus until the end. Pretty early on, Rook warms to Isobel and decides that he no longer wants to take Isobel to trial. Unfortunately, this means that for the first half of the story, the duo meander through the forest aimlessly, attacked seemingly at random every couple chapters by a new monster/fair one that prevents Isobel from just going home. These scenes don’t do much beyond padding page length, and I wonder if delaying Rook’s change of heart or having a clearer antagonist for the early chapters might have reduced their clunkiness. Thankfully, by chapter twelve (of twenty-two), the plot finds its direction and unfolds several decent twists.
I have to admit that I’m not sold on the Isobel/Rook pairing. Bleh. I’ve read so many YA relationships that they all blur into each other unless they’re written especially well or with distinguishing features. This one is not. It develops far too quickly to have much substance, even if the style is definitely there. I never quite understood just what either of them saw in the other, and it felt like they were together just because. Just because every YA novel has to have a romance, even more so when the entire plot hinges on it.
Oh hey, look, it actually is Feyre and Rhysand. The book might not read like ACOTAR, but you certainly wouldn’t be able to tell from the fan art.
Now for the best part, and why I rounded my rating up to 4 stars on Goodreads: The ending, along with the message it carries, is wonderful. I enjoy Sarah J. Maas’s High Fae for what they are–but at the end of the day, she idealises them into a superior version of humans, and her human heroine turns into a Fae to literally live happily ever after in a Twilight-level telegraphed plot point. Not so with Rogerson’s fair folk. The trade-off of immortality and magic is clearly established in their deadly allergy to Craft (anything artistic) and inability to feel true emotion; the way characters, Isobel and Aster most of all, react to the reality is touching. I seriously hope An Enchantment of Ravens doesn’t succumb to sequel fever, because it leaves us on a perfect note.
Plus Gadfly, watch out for Gadfly. What a cheeky little shit.