Raven’s Shadow is the first book in Patricia Briggs‘ Raven Duology. The books are a Quest tale set in the (as far as I can tell) unnamed Empire, a typical high fantasy medieval world with horses, palaces, and men who wander around with swords.
And magic, of course.
There are two kinds of magic in the Empire: traditional fantasy ritual magic and spellbooks used by ‘wizards’ and their ilk (solsenti sorcery, according to Seraph), and the innate magic of the Travelers.
The Travelers are a rather gypsy-esque group, who, as the name suggests, travel around rather than settling in one home. Like in the real-world, these gypsy clans are disliked and persecuted by much of the Empire. The magic of the Travelers is broken down into six Orders, Raven (mage), Falcon (hunter), Lark (healer), Owl (bard), Cormorant (weather) and Eagle (guardian). The people with these particular magic Orders (Order-bearers) are relatively rare even amongst the Travelers, and Travelers who aren’t Order-bearers can (I think) still be mageborn enough to use wizardry, if they were so inclined.
I’ll try not to give away too many spoilers for the plot, but just recount the basics of the first couple of chapters that constitute Part One (which are mainly story-setting) and a general overview of the remainder.
Our story begins with the first meeting of our two main characters: Seraph, Raven of the Traveler Clan of Isolde the Silent, and Tieragan of Redern, a baker-turned-soldier returning to his mountain village home. At the start of our tale Seraph’s older brother Ushireh, the only other member of her Clan, has been literally burned at the stake for the crime of… well, being a Traveler. Tier rescues Seraph from a Fate Worse Than Death (essentially slavery) and she journeys with him to Redern. Things happen, and the pair of them end up married and most definitely not in love.
At this point we hit Part Two of the story, and jump forward 20 years. Tier and Seraph are married, farmers living just outside of Redern, and now have three children; Jes, who is Eagle, Lehl, who is Falcon, and Rinnie, who is Cormorant. Tier is missing, presumed dead, but actually kidnapped by Evil Wizards™ and taken to the Empire’s capital city of Taela. The Quest ensues and Seraph, her two sons, and Seraph’s fellow Raven Hennea set off an Epic Journey to rescue him.
While I consider this title to be both ‘fantasy’ and ‘romance’, it is not a paranormal romance novel by any stretch of the imagination – but it does follow a married couple, Tier and Seraph, who have clearly fallen in love over the course of their marriage even if they don’t verbally admit it until almost the end of this book. As a romance reader as well as a fantasy reader, I enjoyed the relationship between them; even though they spent most of the book apart, they were never far from each other’s thoughts, which is something I can relate to in my own marriage. The side-tale with Jes’ developing feelings for Hennea was sweet and touching, and every bit as awkward as I remember my first romance being.
The overall interaction and relationships between the characters were extremely well-written, and the world in which they were set was detailed and interesting. While some secondary characters felt like name placeholders, the more important and frequently-seen were well fleshed-out and engaging.
Though part of a duology, this book stands perfectly well on its own with a well-resolved ending. I would definitely recommend this as a high fantasy sword-and-sorcery tale, and look forward to working through the rest of my Briggs books.