on 18 October 2013
I enjoyed this epic fantasy novel thanks to its strong compelling characters and character development. Too often in fantasy an unlikely group is thrown together by circumstance and merrily go off on some quest where everything is neatly resolved at the end. What author Elspeth Cooper has managed, is to create some very human characters who are all on personal journeys, asking themselves questions and which direction to take. The narrative forms a multi perspective and the story shifts to different places as the drama unfolds.
This is a world of factions, clans and unsteady alliances. It is also made clear that survival is not to be taken for granted; this is a dangerous and unpredictable world where pain and regret punish every unintentional misstep.
Each character is striving for something: power, conquest, peace, love. Everyone has different motives but all are swept up and affected by the struggle afflicting their world. This takes place on a large canvas and there are battles, harsh conditions and lots of gore (some of the scenes made for hard reading). For all the magic, known here as `The Song', the pain and suffering is all too real and convincing.
Characters like Teia and Gair have to use every ounce of their guile, experience and wits to navigate this potential minefield. Cooper manages to weave a web of intrigue and combine this with tough storytelling and wonderfully descriptive prose, keeping the reader engrossed and engaged. If you are not already familiar with her work, then I implore you to read one of her books, you will not be disappointed.
on 25 July 2015
It’s vintage epic Fantasy fare. But there is so much more to this excellent series than that. While the setup may not be groundbreakingly original, it is a solidly well-constructed world with plenty of depth and breadth – furthermore Cooper achieves this without pages of exposition.
I gave myself a break between reading the second and third books, as if I read a block of books from a single writer, I tend to find stylistic quirks start to grate and interfere with my enjoyment. But as soon as I opened up this hefty tome, I was immediately whisked back into the world of Teia, Gair and Tanith. The protagonists are vivid, enjoyable and bounce off the page such that I was soon immersed into the experience, relishing and savouring it – the mark of a thoroughly enjoyable read. That said, it isn’t a good book to pick up if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of this series. You’d miss far too much of the backstory to fully appreciate the characterisation and exactly why they are doing what. Gair, in particular, has a whole suite of emotional baggage due to his previous traumatic experiences – and neither would you fully appreciate Tanith’s irritation at the insufferable Ailric and his unwanted advances.
Obviously the main task of a mid-series book is to continue the story arc, continue the protagonists’ journeys ensuring the tension pings off the page and while the finale of this particular book cannot wrap the story up, neither can it sputter to an uninspiring close. And I’ve read far too many of those in my time. Not so in this book – Cooper really lets loose. She has a clean, punchy writing style I really enjoy and when it came to the showdown that had been building from the opening scenes, she ensures she delivers an almighty battle scene that had me rapt. I should have got up and got going on my lengthy To Do list, but I was going nowhere without knowing first who prevailed. And – yes – I really didn’t know, because she has already seen off a couple of major characters that I’d become very attached to. We’re not talking the kind of protag persecution that Martin displays in his ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series, but nevertheless I was winded when they died. It was a triumphant climax to a cracking Fantasy read that is right up there with the likes of Joe Abercrombie, Kate Elliott and Glenda Larke in my opinion.
I’m really looking forward to the fourth book – and if you enjoy character-led epic Fantasy, then track down this series. It deserves be far better known.
on 8 July 2015
If you like fantasy that has Elves, Goblins, Dwarves etc.. This is not for you. If however you want Magic, a flawed hero, intrigue, heart stopping fights and a couple of love stories thrown in then try this series. I read book 1 songs of earth in a week but then struggled with the second one, Trinity Rising, one of the characters felt wrong and out of place. I ordered book 3 and it completely pulled me in. The flawed hero, Gair, is greiving the loss of his mentor and his inability to control his powers. The return of his friend Lady Tanith is good and bad news for him. They both join with The Empire to defend thier lands from an invading force. How they use their skills and help is mind blowing. Give this series a chance if you like hard, gritty fantasy. Book 4 is over a year away. I for one will order and enjoy. Worthy of comparison with Eddings, Feist and Gemmel.
I've been a fan of this series since I read the original book "Songs of the Earth" just prior to its release, Elspeth brings a wonderfully inventive fantasy world to the fore with wonderful imagination, a solid culture and of course characters that you can't help but want to spend more time with.
Throw into the mix, cracking prose, solid pace which when added to an author's skill at bringing over realistic dialogue all round makes this a cracking read. I really do love getting further into the author's imagination with every subsequent release as you not only get to enjoy it all but you also get to see them develop as a writer. All round cracking magical fun and I can't wait to see what Elspeth brings in next time.
on 21 February 2015
Having not enjoyed Trinity Rising as much as the first book, I had reservations about The Ravens Shadow. I'm glad I put them aside however, as this was an enjoyable read.
All of the meandering story threads finally come to a head building up to an exciting climax which in turn sets the narrative off into other, no less dramatic tangent.
We see the characters really develop in this book as the world it is set in comes to life like never before.
The only drawback I had was the epilogue which was expected and anti-climactic. Saying that, I am eagerly awaiting the next instalment.
on 2 April 2014
Brilliant just brilliant, Elspeth has a good writing skills and fantastic dark story, just hope the next book will be the same, but, I do like her story line so different and so personal, the line is so compelling and I find it hard to put the book down and sleep, but I always read way past my bed time. From Mike
on 14 September 2013
You know you have a favourite author when you start to seriously pine for their next book. Books are my thing; they're my comfort blanket. Since last December I've been browsing my fantasy shelves and reporting that I needed to read "more Ellie." When asked what I wanted to read, I'd keep saying "Elspeth Cooper". I've been waiting a long time for The Raven's Shadow. In fact, I've been waiting since Trinity Rising. The single problem with reading your favourite books so quickly is that once they're done, they're done. You can look at the cover, feel the grain of the paper, think about all the wonderful words bound inside, but the book is over. That's how I'm feeling about The Raven's Shadow. I miss it already.
Elspeth Cooper writes beautifully; she's a poet. I usually try not to gush too much in reviews, but when it comes to Cooper and The Wild Hunt, I'm afraid that's quite impossible. She is my favourite author. My absolute favourite author. So, as you can expect, since this hasn't started off with all the signs of a broken heart and the bitterness of a devastated fanboy, The Raven's Shadow was pure magic.
This book feels like a true fantasy epic, yet it never loses sight of its roots in being far more slice-of-life (as I like to put it; yay, anime) than some fantasy novels I've read. The day-to-day never feels forgotten in Cooper's books and by keeping her story close to the characters, the development of personalities, internal/external conflicts and agencies is all the stronger. I know Gair and Tanith and throughout the story, Ailric and Sorchal and everyone else. Even the minor characters such as Ansel. You learn to know these people, who they are and what they are about; and you do so because Cooper never forgets that without her characters, the story would be pale. Yes, you can have a plot-centric story; but character-centric trumps it easily.
Suddenly alone, his mentor gone and violence erupting all around him, Gair is about to undergo the most difficult stage of his life so far. With the Nimrothi riding for the lands of the Empire and the threat not being seriously acknowledged, the clans close to the border will have their work cut out manning the forts and holding back the war band, powered by Ytha and her Speakers. Teia is hurrying to warn the Empire, but heavy with child and with a mountain to face, her chances--and those of her clan of Lost Ones--dwindle day by day. If the cold doesn't kill them, the arduous journey and lack of food will. But she must warn the Empire of the threat, must tell them that only the iron men can stand against the war band. After all, she has seen it.
Meanwhile Tanith is heading back towards the lands of the Empire, leaving Astolar following her failed attempt to convince the Ten that the threats towards the Veil are just as relevant to her people, tucked between a wrinkle in existence between the mortal world and the hidden world in which the Hunt has been trapped, as it is to the humans from whom they distance themselves. Determined to make all haste, Tanith took a route through the Wildwood at the end of Trinity Rising, with a forestal guide. But even with Owyn leading her and Ailric, whom she could not discourage from accompanying her--and whom she wishes she could bury all feeling for--at her side, the dangers of the wood won't keep their distance for long. At this rate, Tanith might never even reach the humans in order to warn them.
But with Maegern's Hounds already freed--even two present a dire threat--and Savin playing his wicked games, there is far more danger afoot that anyone can imagine. The power at the heart of the Nimrothi is about to grow and Ytha might just become unstoppable. And with Teia in the mountains, even she cannot hope to prevent Ytha's schemes.
Gair has his work cut out: getting out of Gimrael will be difficult enough, especially with the nuns he is escorting, let alone the discordant notes running through the Song within him--never mind the fact that Alderan is gone. Carrying grief now three-fold, having lost his lover, his friend and now his mentor, Gair stands upon the edge of a precipice of just giving up and giving himself over to revenge and only revenge. Savin will die and that's all Gair is about. He will deliver his message of Alderan's loss to the Gatekeeper, and then he will find Savin.
There's the matter of the starseed to consider of course, but with nobody seeming to know precisely where it is, the fear of not finding it in time is laced with the fear that the enemy with find it first. In this tense and fast-paced instalment of The Wild Hunt paths finally converge and the result is spectacular.
The Raven's Shadow is easily the best book of the series so far--and that's a high standard to have achieved. It is pacy and deep and keeps a relentless course set upon its goals. Despite the fact that this is a book containing a lot of travelling it doesn't feel like a "journey novel"; it never drags its feet or introduces "random encounters" to make things more interesting. Everything is relevant with no "we're on a journey" side-quests or sagging middle parts. Everything is tight and deft.
The world of The Wild Hunt is vivid and dark but with no stylised grittiness; everything has its place and its reason and it presents a far more realistic pseudo-medieval world than books that try to veer more towards the grittiness, or those than try to avoid it altogether. It has a balance and it holds throughout.
The ante has really been upped with just how the events of The Raven's Shadow play out; the end provides a cliffhanger of an ending that will make your jaw drop. With pieces falling into place across the vast stage of the series, and with each and every character making their own moves and steering others into place, The Dragon House is set to be simply spectacular.
You will not read another writer that compares to Cooper in epic fantasy at the moment; she is a talent that will endure and in ten years' time, she will be a classic. With beautiful prose that presents a brightly-imagined world right at your feet, and a tangled story that weaves and wends without ever losing itself, The Raven's Shadow is a stunning fantasy novel in and of itself--and a superb continuation of the absolutely stellar series that simply everyone should read.
It might show a little, but I loved this book. ∩( ・ω・)∩