There’s no denying it. I was captivated by the name of the book – Raven Song. Ravens have always fascinated me because of the power, mystery and a disquieting sense of inevitability associated with them. Fantasy is a genre which I love, yet strangely I haven’t reviewed any such books. So it was with great anticipation that I received a copy of Raven Song from the author, I. A. Ashcroft, for a fair review.
Set in the future, in the year 2147, this tale is an interesting mix of fantasy and grim reality. The world as we know it has been burned out by massive radiation and the story is set in a dystopian state controlled by a totalitarian Coalition government. New York is covered by a massive blue bubble which keeps the inhabitants safe from radiation. Everybody walks around with a Geiger counter and wears a radiation suit when they venture out of the bubble.
Jackson, a smuggler is one of the two main protagonists. An orphan who was adopted by a successful businessman and treated like a son, Jackson is striving to keep the company afloat after his father’s death. The grim yet loving Frank, who is more of a bodyguard than an assistant, helps him in this endeavor. Jackson is plagued by horrible nightmares that leave him completely stressed out. He has many secrets which he tries to keep buried deep within, one of which is that he can see Ravens. Nobody else can, because ravens are believed to have been destroyed during the catastrophe that befell the world. Jackson is helped in dealing with his nightmares by the Order of magicians, who have a hidden agenda of their own.
On a business assignment for the Coalition government, Jackson stumbles upon Anna who has no idea how she came to be in 2147. Her last memory is of going to work, in the year 2022. Jackson can sense an unexplainable bond with Anna and he has an overriding wish to keep her safe. However Anna is taken away by the Coalition who realize she has special powers of withstanding radiation.
Then there’s Tony, who was once a part of Jackson’s childhood, and who has been dealt a harsh card by life. He charts his own path to glory losing himself along the way. A beautifully etched character, I didn’t know whether to comfort him for all the times he had been let down by people who should have taken care of him, or to recoil from him for the deep streak of cruelty he displayed. He combines all the qualities of a child, a showman and a psychopath.
The story picks up pace when Jackson helps Anna escape from the government facility. But before they could talk things out they are again taken prisoner by two separate forces. The rest of the story is how the two protagonists go all out to unravel the mystery that surrounds them.
Jackson and Anna are a beautiful combination. He can manipulate shadows while she withstands radiation and emits a soft glow from within. It’s as if light and darkness are coexisting to make the world a better place. Yin and Yang combining their forces to make sense of the bewildering situations that life throws at them. There aren’t too many characters in the book, and the ones who make an appearance remain in our minds. Tony is brilliant and manic.
I felt a bit shaky in the beginning because I didn’t have too many points of reference for the new world. Then the narration picked up and became edgy and fast paced. The story is like a huge bubbling cauldron with a pinch of time travel, a dash of magic, streaks of fantasy and a hefty dose of action. The author writes beautifully and sucks the reader right into the book. The action is crisp and keeps the adrenaline pumping. Raven Song works well as a standalone book even though it’s the first of a four-book series.