An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: September 26, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley
Summary (from Goodreads):
Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized among them. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes – a weakness that could cost him his life.
Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. There's only one way to save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless.
Isobel has a choice: she can sacrifice her art for a future, or arm herself with paint and canvas against the ancient power of the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.
What I Liked:
This book is every bit as captivating and enchanting as you might hear. I've seen people discussing it for months now, sharing excitement and desperation for it. I personally had no intentions of reading the book, because I'd seen people compare it to Sarah J. Maas's ACOTAR, and I had way too many issues with ACOTAR to want to read something similar. But this fae book was incredibly different and not at all anything like ACOTAR. I hate SJM's books but I highly recommend this one, either way. Don't let comparisons fool you! They work for some, but not for others. This book needed no comparison, and can stand on its own without needing SJM or anyone else as a crutch.
Isobel is an extremely talented artist, and does portraits of the fair folk. Her Craft of painting portraits is incredibly well-known, and fair folk flock to have their portrait done. One day, the autumn prince returns after hundreds of years of being away from Whimsy. When Isobel draws his portrait with sorrow in his eyes, she doesn't realize that this is a grave error - to draw human emotion on a fair folk. This is a weakness that the autumn prince does not need. So he spirits her away to take her to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. But they are chased by the Hounds of the Great Hunt, sent by the Alder King. What's more, Rook and Isobel fall in love, which breaks to Good Law that humans and fair folk are forbidden to fall in love. Isobel must sacrifice her life or Rook's, or they both must die.
The author's writing is so lovely! It was a pleasure to read this book. There are some books in which you don't really notice anything special about the writing, or you definitely notice the flowery writing, or the clunky, choppy writing. I took note of the smooth, whimsical writing of this book. There is a lush quality to the writing, which I didn't necessarily expect. At the same time, the writing wasn't distracting or too overdone. I got swept into the story and I was hooked.
From start to finish, I was in no danger of setting this book aside. I couldn't wait to see what Rook and Isobel would do next, what they would bicker about next, what Rook would misunderstood next (a lot of human mannerisms went straight over his head). And of course I wanted to see where the story was going - because the conflict switches several times, in order to get to the big picture (which isn't revealed until the very end). In any case, the author kept the story incredibly interesting and engaging, even if the subject matter was slightly dark and not happy-go-lucky.
I love how seamless the world-building is - how I immediately accepted the way things were. Everything from Craft to the fair folks' strange ways to the weird rules about human Craft... once you get a few pages in, all of these things seem commonplace, meaning I didn't question any of it. Humans living among fair folk? Sure thing. A brilliant painter commissioned to paint fair folks' portraits in exchange for enchantments of her choice? Makes sense. Rogerson does a superb job with crafting the world-building. Not for a second did I question the world-building, or fail to see or understand something. More than once, I was vividly imagining this or that - whether it was the rotten fruit, or the oak trees, or the honeysuckles.
Isobel is a character that I connected with very quickly. She is dedicated to her Craft and she is a diligent and determined hard worker. Everything she does is for her family, as well as she loves losing herself in a new portrait. Working with the fair folk is very taxing, but her Craft is who she is. I loved how feisty Isobel was, underneath her polite exterior. She has impeccable manners when it comes to the fair folk, but it is Rook that makes her forget her courtesies.
Ahh, Rook. Rook is an enigma, and yet he is so clearly defined. He is the mysterious autumn prince who stopped coming to Whimsy hundreds of years ago, and now he is returning for some reason (the reason is given in the story eventually, don't worry!). Rook is unusually kind and understanding for a fair one, but he is also charming and ill-tempered too. Isobel thinks of him as arrogant and a little self-centered at first, but he is also selfless when it comes to her safety. He is very powerful and not to be trifled with, especially as a prince. Rook is my favorite type of male lead - powerful, a little arrogant, very concerned with the female protagonist's safety and comfort, somewhat alpha-y but not in a d**chebag way. He has hints of danger and seductiveness that makes you fall for him easily.
This book takes place over the course of many weeks (especially in the beginning, as Isobel paints Rook's portrait), and so a lot of time passes, and the couple fall in love. Isobel has always felt something for Rook, but Rook was never trying to fall for her. They realize they love each other later on in the story and this isn't good, because it breaks the Good Law. Watching these two fall for each other was so cute and swoony, in subtle ways. There aren't many kisses or even physical interactions (arms brushing, holding each other, etc.), but this book is still very romantic. Neither one of them really wanted to fall for the other, but in the end, it was inevitable. They are a beautiful match - especially with all of the bickering and how they still stick with each other. Both of them have many choices to leave the other and go back to their business, but they always find that they simply cannot do so (especially Isobel, who in all rights should have left Rook as soon as possible, to go back to her family).
The climax is exciting and nail-biting - I wasn't at all sure how the book would end. I was so scared that there would be a heartbreaking, soul-crushing ending. BUT. I will say that the climax is extremely eventful, so don't skip to the end at any point. The ending is so lovely, so perfect for the story. Finally, a story involving fae that ends well (in my opinion).
Bottom line? This book is definitely worth reading. It exceeded my expectations! And the ending is so, so good.
What I Did Not Like:
I wanted more kissing, and potential steamy scenes between Rook and Isobel in general! I'm not saying ACOTAR-level stuff, but I definitely expected at least a little more kissing. I think my romance-related expectations were very high, and physical chemistry was high on my expectations list too. Especially with the mentions of a specific nightgown (seriously, all of the details were described very carefully - what did you expect me to think?).
Would I Recommend It:
I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves sweeping, romantic fantasy. I don't usually enjoy fae-related books and I definitely didn't enjoy SJM's ACOTAR, so I was initially turned off by the idea of this book. I almost didn't even read this book. But I'm glad I did, because it was swoony and romantic and heart-pounding and put me on a roller coaster of feels. Did I mention that there is no love triangle or anything else to the romance, besides Rook and Isobel? Linear romance for the win!
4.5 stars. I'm still deciding if I should up or down, so I'm rounding down for now. I see why this book made it on the New York Times Bestseller's List. It deserves the spot and I hope it hangs out on the List for a while. I'm glad this book is a standalone (though I definitely wouldn't mind more Rook/Isobel goodness). I can't wait to read what is next by this author!
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