Top critical review
King of None
on 29 October 2014
Fantasy should be fantastical in its very nature, but here lies the issue with the genre itself. If a book is too fantastical, what can you believe? For a fantasy world to work it must create its own set of laws and the author must tell the reader what these are, that way wonderful things can happen, but at least you know there are limits. ‘Jack of Ravens’ by Mark Chadbourn is a prime example of a book that sets no limitations and for this reason undermines itself. How can we possibly care about what is happening with our hero when any character can suddenly pop out of a fairy hole and save the day?
There are elements of ‘Jack’ which are very interesting; it splices urban fantasy with a time travelling adventure. These things should be right up my alley, but it introduces another ingredient; fairy magic. This is the sort of whimsical nonsense that means a writer does not have to think about what they are doing as they can quickly write themselves out of a hole by making something up. There appears to be next to nothing stopping some of the characters leaping around in time and space. This is not only confusing, but makes it hard to feel trepidation.
When the book does settle down for a decade or two the book improves. 70s San Francisco and the World Wars are used well. However, when the book drops into the various magical courts it loses all of what is up and what is down. This may be the point at times, but by not binding the magic in some formal way Chadbourn has left the possibilities too open. The story unravels and as it is part of a series, it has no end. Perhaps book 2 will stay in the modern era and the story will settle down, as it is, book 1 is a mess.