Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Review: Chronicles of the Raven - Dawnthief by James Barclay

First things first – this was one hell of a ride! :-)

When I sat down to read Dawnthief, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I hadn’t read any of the author’s work before, so I had nothing to expect except a good yarn. And I’ll admit this, too – this is the first Heroic Fantasy novel I’ve read, and now that I have, well, lets just say that I’m going to enjoy catching up! :-)

Since the series of books dedicated to The Raven are plentiful and I’m ten years late in reading the book, I wont rehash the plot – just google it, or better yet, follow the link to James’ site at the end of the review and check it out there. Instead, I’ll dive right into my impressions of the book.

The cover of the edition I have is wonderful, first of all. Its elegant and uncluttered, though I’ll admit that I would have liked to have seen a Raven on the hilt, or even etched into the blade.

Between the covers: The strength of this book is the characters. Without a doubt, The Raven are some of the most colorful, engaging characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of traveling with! When we meet them, they’re in a very tight spot, but that’s nothing if not what The Raven are used to – they stand firm, keep to their way of doing things, and press through…

…. just in time for one of them, Hirad, to stumble into a situation that would have had me soiling myself. When we first meet Hirad he’s no-nonsense and a hard, unforgiving bastard, not to mention a bit dumb when it comes to sorcery and Mages. By the end of the book, he’s gone through so much and survived that if he hadn’t changed I would have thrown the book down in disgust; but Hirad, along with his fellow Raven, are expertly handled – their actions make sense, their thoughts conform to who they are, where they came from, etc and they are all engaging! You’ll find yourself rooting for all of them, and then you’ll be sitting, stunned speechless, when they start dying –

Whoops! :-) Don’t worry, even though I gave that away, most of it occurs early on in the book, and by the time you reach the end, well, lets just say that sometimes a character has to die to become really badass! :-) And here’s another thought regarding The Raven: if they could join forces with the Bridgeburners they would become an unstoppable force. Goodbye, Sauron, goodbye, Shaitan, it was great knowing you.

These guys are really such a cool group that you’ll want to read about them all the time, and I defy you not to have a favourite before hitting page 50. :-)

The action: is incredible! Gore in all the right places, none of it overdone, tension everywhere and some awesome imagery!

The plot: be prepared to be hit by plenty of surprises along the way! Not only will you see all of Balaia and meet a great cast of supporting characters, but you’ll enjoy the ride! There’s no info-dumping here where it isn’t needed: as the tale progresses you get told what you need to know to understand, and none of it overwhelms the action or the characters.

The magic system: one of the best I’ve ever wished I had the ability to use! :-) The Mages in Dawnthief manipulate mana, have all sorts of cool names for what they create, and the descriptions of what is happening during a casting are also damn cool. You actually see the magic forming around you and wince at its effects!

My only issue with the book has nothing to do with the tale itself – it seemed to me that maybe this edition was rushed onto the shelves because I caught, here and there, maybe once every thirty or forty pages, mistakes in the type-setting that made it through to the finished product. They aren’t so glaring that they completely derail you, I promise, but they’re there nonetheless.

All in all, this was a great book, and fans of Steven Erikson and Glen Cook should enjoy it, too; this is a tale about a group of tight-nit soldiers who know do what they do by giving us plenty of moments of laughter, sorrow, jaw-hanging-open exclamations of ‘WOW’ and above all, a tale that anyone who is a fan of fantasy in general will enjoy!

I’ll definitely be getting copies of all The Raven titles – these are awesome, fun books by an author who knows how to grab you by the cajones and make you enjoy it! :-)


To order your copies, click here for US, here for UK, and for those in SA, please use the link at the top of the blog. Also, don't forget to check out James' website here, as well as this site, focusing on Balaia, but beware of spoilers if you haven't yet read the books! :-)

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