Patricia Briggs writes straight-up, old-fashioned fantasy in Raven’s Shadow

ravenRaven’s Shadow by Patricia Briggs
Ace, July 27th, 2004 (Fantasy)

My rating: Outstanding adventure!

From Briggs, one of my favorite authors of paranormal romantic fantasy a la Mercy Thompson, an incredible classic fantasy starring a family of individuals with unique strengths.

This novel opens with the first meeting between Tier, battle-weary soldier, and Seraph, young sorceress from a clan of wanderers. Tier finds her at the mercy of a village who have just burned her brother for being a Traveler – the common name for people of the clans. Seraph is a Raven, sworn to protect non-Travelers and Travelers alike from an ancient evil.

Part Two opens twenty years later, and Tier and Seraph have raised an unusually talented family on their farm. Every one of them belongs to an Order. That is, they each have a different set of magical abilities. On this day, Tier has gone missing, and Seraph and her children set out to rescue him.

Admittedly, I almost put the book down when I found out the author skipped over 20 years. Normally I dislike time-skipping, especially when the romance is completely left out. But I stuck with it, and am so glad I did. Instead of writing the early stages of their marriage, Briggs uses memory to show the reader the development of the relationship between Seraph and Tier. It works out very well this way. Equally as well as watching the love develop between the characters during the first twenty years of marriage, in my opinion.

This tale is an adventure wrapped in a magical fantasy, and peopled by strong, interesting, and devoted characters. I don’t read family sagas, but love certain books with strong family ties between characters. And the children in this story are not young children, which makes the divided narrative more appealing to readers interested in reading about fully grown characters.

Beside all that, the plot simply never lets up. Even the divided narrative doesn’t weigh the story down or break it up – the narration moves the plot forward evenly, without distracting the reader. I found myself interested in each one of the narrators, and happy to switch perspectives. Additionally, the prose is spare enough that I tore through this one, and still never felt that I had missed something out because I was too eager to turn the page.

There are travels, magical battles, tense relationships with in-laws, intrigue, sibling bickering, dynamic characters, witty old ladies, bardic tales, an (otherworldly) forest lord, sword fights, shiver-inducing evil, and the triumph of good.

I loved this book and couldn’t put it down.

It reminds me a bit of Bujold’s Sharing Knife series, because both have two cultures, one nomadic that protects the other, more sedentary, from ancient, straight-up evil (no shades of grey, here). It also shares the strong family dynamics with Anne McCaffrey’s series about futuristic telepaths, starting with The Rowan.

Does it remind you of any other books you’ve read? Let us know in the comments – I love old-fashioned fantasy adventure stories, and am always eager to discover more.

Read-alikes

Beguilement (The Sharing Knife #1)

– The romance in Beguilement is more prevalent, more explicit. This book, too, follows a young woman with extraordinary gifts and a different viewpoint. Most strikingly, there are two societies in this world, like that in Raven’s Shadow, and the more nomadic of the two has taken a sacred vow to protect life from a darkness slash evil that threatens the world.

The Rowan (The Tower and the Hive #1)

The Rowan begins a family saga about telepaths, telekinetics, and other special Talents in a futuristic universe where other moons and planets have been colonized, and people mental gifts are used to transport ships, cargo, and people on interstellar trade and travel routes. Damia, Damia’s Children, and Lyon’s Pride most closely resemble the family dynamics in Raven’s Shadow.

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