Kesta had left her heart across the sea. They were at peace, her people saved from slavery, and yet… her soul was uneasy.
Chem lies in chaos, its people suffering as a result of the death of the ruling sorcerers. Refugees flee the cursed Borrows, begging for help from those they had made their enemy. A Queen unknowingly makes a dark, deadly pact, and new powers rise to fill the seats left empty by the Dunham necromancers.
The Raven Coven is the second in a traditional fantasy series by Emma Miles. We begin with apparent heroine Kesta without her husband Jorrun, with who she had entered an uneasy union with during the first novel in the series, The Raven Tower.
My apologies to the author – I haven’t read book 1 in this series before review. However, this didn’t stop me from picking up the plot fairly quickly and engaging with the characters in an enjoyable manner. It’s fair to say that the three main characters – Kesta the Fire Walker, Jorrun the Dark Man and Osun, Jorran’s half brother – are damaged people.
We are introduced to the main players via a series of letters that open the novel. My heart sank a little when I first thought I was entering a full-blown romance populated with separated lovers and wistful hearts. However, while the theme of love and how it shapes and binds us is strong throughout, The Raven Coven has much more than romance to give.
The world building is simple but effective – there are four land based territories to book mind map: Chem, The Borrows, Eldon & The Fulmers. Each has a distinct identity and magical attribute that manifests in subtly different ways or elements. Perhaps it’s the librarian-goth in me, but I was found I was drawn to the dark places represented by Chem and the Borrows.
Chem is a society built on repression and subjugation, with women and girls facing a harrowing future of enslavement. Those born with magic have it harvested from them and are left empty of their gift. You can sense a resonance with current events in our own world – suppression of women’s rights over their own bodies, aggressive world leadership and religious intolerance. Slavery and skin shops. Having not read book one I wasn’t sure how this society had developed to reach this point, I was only able to see how it had left its mark on the people who were born there or drawn into its cruelties when trying to liberate their loved ones. We enter it at a time when it has lost its cruel overlord and the society has fragmented, leaving those living there in abject misery.
The Borrows are different. They feel like once they have been magical places where people lived piratical lives. This has been ripped away from them. The magic that lies within the land itself has been seen as a commodity and blood magic has been used to strip the Borrows of all magical elements, leaving it scarred and hostile to life. Its people have become refugees seeking sanctuary in a world suspicious of them thanks to their previous aggressive actions towards them.
A quest is agreed between married couple Kesta and Jorrun who reunite after a rough time where their loyalties have been tested and divided. They will aid Jorrun’s half brother Osun to take one of the ruling seats in Chem left vacant following events in The Raven Tower. They do so with the agreement of the rulers of the two more stable countries in the four – Dia Incante of the Fulmers (and Kesta’s mother), and King Bractius of Elden. Cue a number of politically motivated visits between sovereigns that hint of a darkness brewing within the palace walls of Elden from a surprising source.
The Raven Coven itself is formed from a cohort of women who the trio free (although restricted freedom under their protection and tutelage) when they secure rulership of Navere in the Covenet of Chem. There is clear conflict between Osun and Kesta, which intrigued me and makes me wish I’d read The Raven Tower to understand more. Osun is on a redemptive path and I would have enjoyed spending more time with him on the page. His drive for penance and to become a better man leads him to make interesting decisions and to step up to responsibility, with all the devastating consequences that can have.
We follow the quest narrative to crunch point where all evils come together and good must inevitably fight the big bad. There are some lovely uses and descriptions of magic here. Indeed, the magical systems within the book are a highlight, taking elemental magic and playing with both its possibilities and limitations. I was a little uncertain as to how Jorrun’s power of dream walking worked, or that of blood magic. I suspect that this would have been fully explained in The Raven Tower, which would also have satisfied my curiosity about Jorrun’s heritage that we see hints of, and which has an influence on his actions and reactions throughout the book.
Overall I enjoyed The Raven Coven very much. The multiple point of view narrative arcs weave together in a satisfactory manner. World and character building are strong with emotions being convincing whether they be that of love, hatred or burning jealousy. The prose is straightforward with few bells and whistles but it is effective, and comes to life beautifully when describing magical activity. It is an easy world to lose yourself within.
I would recommended the series to fantasy readers, and in particular anyone wishing to engage with fantasy as a genre but who may be daunted by the sheer scope of some fantasy epics out there. And now I’m going to download The Raven Tower so I can get to grips with how the blood magic and dream walking elements work!
Many thanks to Emma Miles for the ARC of The Raven Coven.
Author Bio –
I presently live in the stunning county of Dorset where I’m a cat slave to Wolfe and Piglitt. I spend as much time as I can outside in nature and love exploring and learning about new cultures and languages. I’ve visited Greece, Serbia, Transylvania, Sicily and Norway as well as making several road trips around our beautiful United Kingdom. I paint, sculpt, dabble in photography and do a little archery but most of all – whenever I get a chance – I write.
My writing started from a very young age when I often found myself being the one taking charge of and entertaining all my younger cousins. They loved to hear my stories and although they mostly called for ghost stories it was fantasy I fell in love with when I read The Lord of the Rings when I was ten. I went on to write stories and short ‘books’ for my friends through school and college; then one evening whilst I was waiting for my aunt and uncle to visit an image came to my mind of a boy sitting beneath a bridge. I didn’t know who he was or why he was there, but from exploring those questions ‘The Wind’s Children’ trilogy blossomed and grew with roots going back into his far history as well as stretching out to his future. The boy’s name was Tobias.
I have since left Tobias’s world of ‘Naris’ to explore the Valley with Feather in the ‘Hall of Pillars’ which is now available through Amazon. I am now presently finding my way through Elden, the beautiful Fulmer islands, the ravaged Borrows and haunted Chem with Kesta Silene; a shamaness of sorts with a big journey ahead of her. I hope you come along to share her story and join her adventure; she needs you and you won’t regret it.
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