Acquired Book By: I’ve been hosting for Prism Book Tours since September of 2017 – having noticed the badge on Tressa’s blog (Wishful Endings) as we would partake in the same blog tours and/or book blogosphere memes. As I enquired about hosting for Prism, I found I liked the niche of authors and stories they were featuring regularly. Oft-times you’ll find Prism Book Tours alighting on my blog through the series of guest features and spotlights with notes I’ll be hosting on behalf of their authors when I’m not showcasing book reviews on behalf of Harlequin Heartwarming which has become my second favourite imprint of Harlequin next to my beloved #LoveINSPIRED Suspense. I am also keenly happy PRISM hosts a variety of Indie Authors and INSPY Fiction novelists.
Previously I hosted a series of special posts attached to #blogmas featuring Fantasy novelists I was eagerly looking forward to seeking out throughout . I was hoping to read one of them for #WyrdAndWonder which is why when I saw one of the authors on my #mustread shortlist, I jumped at the chance to join the blog tour! My spot for the tour was on the final day for #WyrdAndWonder and it felt like a good fit at the time. This was prior to the 4x migraines which altered how I could read and blog this May; but overall, I was still celebrating the fact I could receive the first book “Mark of the Raven” alongside the book for the blog tour “Flight of the Raven”. This is also marking my first attempt to read #INSPYFantasy of this nature and I looked forward to what I would find inside the story-line as I wanted to see how an INSPY novelist might approach this kind of portal and epic fantastical tale!
I received complimentary copies of “Mark of the Raven” and “Flight of the Raven” direct from the publisher Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Celebrating a new interest in #INSPY #Fantasy this
#WyrdAndWonder from a #blogmas selection!
As you may or may not recall – I first featured this saga during my #blogmas series of posts last December wherein I had a chance to seek out #newtomeauthors by showcasing their series & books in a series of featured posts wherein I had the delightful joy in getting to know a bit about their characters, their world-building and/or their writerly styles of approach within the Fantasy genre I love to read! The interesting bit though is how a lot of those selections were actually within the sub-niche of #INSPYFantasy! Something I haven’t readily explored in the past and was delighted in finding such a strong pull towards seeking out these kinds of authors as previously I had mostly focused on Indie Authors and/or Self Pub authors who were writing the kinds of fantastical reads I dearly wanted to be exploring!
In case you might not have been with me during #blogmas let me recap what my thoughts were in December to give you a good impression of how I was celebrating this new interest of mine:
I am LOVING the art direction of today’s Fantasy market! I love artwork which pulls you into the world-building – gives you something to chew and contemplate and before you realise it, you already want to be living in that world – isn’t this the case for you? I oft wonder what allures readers to read Fantasy & Science Fiction – strictly the artwork or the synopsis or a mixture of both? For me, every story starts with a keen interest in the premise & what I shall find inside the pages,.. the artwork for me is the icing on the cupcake if I love reading the novel!
Ever since I started co-hosting #WyrdAndWonder (an annual Fantasy event with mini-events throughout the year) I’ve become more mindful of Fantasy as a niche I dearly want to explore further, as I only had a fleeting sense of what was available in the past. This month I’ll be reading one of my favourite Science Fiction novelists whose written an epic Fantasy series – a series I’ve been trying to read for the past few years and felt life constantly was pulling me out of its pages. As I knew #FantasyForChristmas was nearing – I felt by celebrating new worlds of Fantasy would be the best anchour towards reading more Fantasy this December!
I was also inspired when I first started reading A Mortal Song during last month’s #Mythothon – wherein I was happily charmed by what I discovered when Japanese Mythos and Fantasy are entwined!
This particular series I am showcasing today is about redemptive conscience – as there is an heir to a legacy not of the choosing of the heir but of the family she’s been bourne. There is a moral and ethical dilemma to her inheritance and as you read the synopsis from book one to book two you can sort of start to see where the lines are drawn for her and her family. Stories of individual quests in worlds of Fantasy are amongst my favourites but what is interesting of course, is this a second selection under the umbrella of Christian Fantasy. It would be interesting how this ties into the theme but also, how it reflects the crisis within the lead character for not wanting to make a choice that goes against her own beliefs.
Curious – which other stories in Fantasy reflect this kind of quest and what did you appreciate about those narratives the most?!
Now, as we fast forward into May – imagine my heart of gratitude having *both!* novels within this saga on my shelf to read & disappear inside before the closing hours of #WyrdAndWonder! I was wicked excited the day they arrived – as it felt like I had come full circle since #blogmas to find one of the authors I could read not just for the event I was eagerly co-hosting *but!* of finding myself able to read an author I had spotlighted & featured within six months of that feature running on Jorie Loves A Story! I have been wanting to be more proactive in reading the authors I’m spotlighting within six or twelvemonths as a way forward in the future rather than waiting a select number of years before I can ‘meet’ their stories as they say!
I wonder if anyone else whose been participating with #WyrdAndWonder has disappeared into this niche of focus themselves? Or, if like me it is a new thread of exploration!? Afterall, I love INSPY Lit – I just never realised they had such a healthy assortment of #FantasyReads!
Lady Selene is the heir to the Great House of Ravenwood and the secret family gift of dreamwalking. As a dreamwalker, she can enter a person’s dreams and manipulate their greatest fears or desires. For the last hundred years, the Ravenwood women have used their gift of dreaming for hire to gather information or to assassinate.
As she discovers her family’s dark secret, Selene is torn between upholding her family’s legacy–a legacy that supports her people–or seeking the true reason behind her family’s gift.
Her dilemma comes to a head when she is tasked with assassinating the one man who can bring peace to the nations, but who will also bring about the downfall of her own house.
One path holds glory and power, and will solidify her position as Lady of Ravenwood. The other path holds shame and execution. Which will she choose? And is she willing to pay the price for the path chosen?
Places to find the book:
Published by Bethany House Publishers
on 6th November, 2018
Format: Trade Paperback
an imprint of Baker Publishing Group
Formats Available: Hardback, Trade paperback, Audiobook and Ebook
my review of mark of the raven:
Selene and her sister Amara have a long history of rivalry between them – it is etched into how they interact with each other and how seething in anger Amara had been by the priest’s gesture on behalf of Selene during a ceremony with a priest who seemed to have moved in and out of trace without his own recognition of the event. It is in that moment where Selene was given only one subtle hinting towards what might yet become true for her – the presence of the Dark Lady would visit with her and thus, starts the Mark of the Raven.
Nothing short of oppressive expectation was placed on Selene’s shoulders – from what you gather of her mother’s reaction to her gifting. In this world, there is a break-down of gifts passed through different generations – each particular ‘house’ then is given a different talent of power. Selene was bourne into the Ravenwood lineage and their particular gift is that of ‘dreamers’. What was keenly interesting to me is in the front pages of the novel, we’re not just blessed with a map of the world but with a firm break-down of which house and family is given which gift! Further interesting is when it was revealled Selene has a tattooed birthmark of a raven on her back – a visual etching which did not appear to be the norm but rather the exception.
As Busse walked us through the procedure for achieving your gift in this world – your heart went out empathetically to Selene for it is not a passage of rightful inheritance without its merciless agony! Not only the fact it is a painful transformation for the person undergoing the alteration from an internal and external experience but it foretells a bit about how this world is only in balance when everything works towards rising through the ancestral lines of prophecy. You can readily see why Selene wants to push back against her rite of passage – the uncertainties of what is expected of her and the unknowns regarding her particular talent are what are bolting her to consider thoughts of exodus the women of her ancestral line may or may not have considered previously.
It is hard to decipher who was on pins more – Selene or myself as she was about to embark on her first dreamwalk! I sensed this is not a gift to take lightly nor was it one Lady Ravenwood had explained to the depth of what really occurs when a person enters another person’s dreamscape – in essence, I felt there was a flickering of distrust in what her mother would require her to do and thereby, it would become a marked moment in Selene’s life – to choose the destiny she was given or to walk a different path. At least this would be the soul searching choice I would undertake – as just as I suspected her dreamwalking destiny is not exactly what Selene might have forethought it would entail; if anything, it might be the opposite of what she intended it to encompass! And, therein of course lies the truer drama behind this story – how does a girl who newly inherits an ancestral gift sort out her own feelings about what that gift truly means to both her family and the people they oversee?
The historical aesthetic of this world reminded me of my readings of the Guinevere Tale trilogy – where ancient magic and conflict of war embattled Guinevere’s soul to the brink of where she nearly lost herself for the will of prophecy. Part of me saw a bit of Guinevere’s internal conflict arching into Selene’s own worried conscience – it is hard to embrace a gift you were given if after you’ve received it the war begins with yourself. However, back to the historical overlays – as this is set within a historic setting with the scope of detail I love from Historical Fiction, you immediately connect to Rook Castle. Even the name eludes to the Ravenwood women’s line of connection to the corvid they embody – it is quite the setting to explore – from the labyrinth corridors and the hidden passages which hold secrets of their own. Just to walk alongside Selene as she traverses her own home and the niches of solitude she attempts to seek out from it is a blessing.
It is quite chilling – this dreamwalking gift Selene has – as she’s forced to do her mother’s bidding – inflicting pain and terror into the people she felt they were meant to be protective of in their care (first the gardener, than a servant of her mother’s) she drew closer to understanding how twisted this gift could become if it continued to be used for nefarious purposes such as her mother was eluding her to believe. Yet, you rally behind Selene because she is of an independent mind – she is seeking the truth behind the legend of the gifting but also, the truer legacy of what being a dreamwalker was meant to entail all along. Sometimes it is best to walk backwards into the past – to see what came before you in order to better understand your purpose in the present; this is what I felt Selene was attempting to do. She didn’t have the knowledge of the past but she yearned to find it – to collect knowledge about the dreamwalkers but also the other Houses of this world where the darkness was strikingly real and where the evils of fate were clawing their way into her own spirit. She was a fighter but how long would the will to fight stay within her own soul?
Three sisters are entwined to this legacy of Ravenwood House – Selene, as a first bourne has the privilege or curse (if you will) of finding out the secrets their mother has kept from them first – however, her middle sister Amara is curiously adamant to follow in her footsteps as quickly as she can without the realisation of what that fever of intention would mean for her own conscience to either accept or reject. Their youngest sister Ophie is the more innocent of the three – perceived to be a mute, her innocence is full of the lightness the other two sisters do not own of themselves. They are too closely connected to their mother’s indoctrinated routines and thereby are walking closer to the shadows than their younger sister would feel comfortable within herself. It is a curious overlay to the story – how three sisters can grow in the same house and yet be remarkably different from one another from the inside out.
What is most gutting is the insurrection of Selene’s own soul – she is struggling to rectify the purpose of her family against her own will as a sentient being being crushed against a tidalwave of injustice stemming from her mother’s twisted sense of righteousness. There is a moment where you feel compelled to pause your readings of Mark of the Raven because of what is implied within one of the dreamscapes – it is the one affecting Renata, the maid Selene never wanted to interfere with through her dreams because of the closeness she feels towards her as a friend. If the two could be considered friends as there is a hierarchy in place within this world. Although the details of the girl’s attack is not graphically depicted it is hinted at in such a way as to give you the strong impression of what happened and why it happened when it did – thus, giving more gravity to the dreamwalking gift Selene is burdened with by her ancestral lineage. What is further wrecking is how Selene reacts to why her mother wanted her enter this girl’s dreamscape and what happens after she does – it is an awakening moment for Selene, one which re-shifts the power within her family but also draws a considerable line of absolutes for herself. You give her credit for finding courage out of chaos but the main concern I had reading this particular passage is the lack of control Selene experienced whilst attempting to right the wrongs of the past.
Grand Lord Damien has a conscience in-line with Selene – he is from the House of Maris (known as the Waters) wherein his gift is tied directly to the element of Water whilst his gift is as powerful as Selene he isn’t as accustomed to the strength it will wield if he chooses to use it. They share quite a heap in common on that front – each of them is burdened with a legacy not of their choosing and with a powerful evocation of that talent within them that they cannot always control. It speaks to the harder question about the world at large and how each of these Houses have their own issues with their own legacies. There is a hinting of war and a further disassociation with their lineage if they are to draw together rather than remain apart – as his entrance into the story reveals a few secreted truths thus left unknown.
What I enjoyed about this first installment is the foundation it set for the series – how we are gathering glimpses of the brewing war between the Houses and seeing the differences between what rules the Light and what rules through the Dark Lady. It is a series about the choices we make whilst we’re walking our path and the choices thrust upon us through unforeseen adversity. The path is always a clear one for each person to make – if you are honest with yourself, you can see the ways in which your path must align. That doesn’t mean to say there isn’t a darkness within this world (as there is) but it does mean the people in this world have a free will of their own to choose which path they desire to walk. In that, Busse has written a series which mirrors real life and the choices everyone must choose for themselves.
on the fantastical writing style of morgan l. busse:
When it comes to High Fantasy (ie. Epic Fantasy), Portal Fantasy and Quest Fantasy – I almost could presume to realise that Ms Busse was about to encompass everything I love from this triple threat of fantastical worlds due to how she places you inside her world. It isn’t just the fact this world feels older than the initial pages you’ve read, it is how she has chosen to let her characters peer at us from their regular habits – they are living their life and we’re observing their life from the outside. I love when writers have this authentic nature about their world-building to where you feel like you’ve slipped the veil and have re-emerged elsewhere; settling into a step with characters you dearly want to know more about and a world which although slightly curious round the edges has its own share of darkness.
Busse does a wonderful job of building the suspenseful arc surrounding the Ravenwood women’s predestined gifting – she has granted the reader an introspective viewing of what happens when you are not willing to blindly accept your fate but rather, with a thoughtful concern for what that fate might imply against your own better nature – to examine it and to sort out where your own allegiances lie within the sphere of the world you were bourne.
She makes you compelled to read the story if only to see where each of the characters are going to take their own stands because this isn’t a fate that you would wish upon yourself or anyone else. It is a question of morality and ethics, too – of what you might be willing to do for the sake of your family but if it goes against an inherent belief of yours? If it crosses that line in the sand where your conscience cannot justify the means of the gift – what do you do then? Its a good plotting to think over and to turn round on yourself whilst your examining the will of Busse’s characters to do the same even if they previously had just succumbed to what they were pushed to do.
Notations of being an #INSPYFantasy with realistic undertones:
This story deals with a lot of different themes and topics – from physical violence against women to the implications of manipulating people’s dreams whilst they are in REM sleep. The key elements of the story of course are threading through a lens of INSPY narrative – wherein you know the story is anchoured through a prism of light rather than the darkness afflicting its nature onto the characters as they each must choose which destiny they will either accept, refute or alter given the course of their own conscience choice in the matter affecting their lineage legacies.
You have to seek out the patterns of inspiration to see how this is an INSPY Fantasy novel as it has the markings of a traditional Quest and High Fantasy story arc – wherein the main question permeating through the novel is what choices will Selene make now that her destiny’s out in the open and the layers of its reach are known to her and her mother? It is not overtly INSPY in that there are distinct cross-overlays between Christianity and this fantastical world – there is a hint and a nod towards religion but it isn’t omnipresent in the narrative itself. Except for the concept of the soul and the journey of the soul – wherein is the most spirituality you’ll see as you walk through the story itself.
It is more of a thinking novel about the concepts of spirituality and the concepts of living against your moral fibre as a sentient being who has the conscience walk of the soul within you. The greatest battle of course is between the Dark Lady and the Light – of which you can draw your own conclusions about whom their representing and I loved Busse for giving readers that option of choice.
Having said that – there are realistic undertones of darkness and darker influences of behaviour running concurrent to the journey Selene and her sisters are being forced to walk. Their legacy of dreamwalking (and I would suspect others who are gifted in other ways, too) has become corroded against the good and embraced by the darker forces which seek to destroy the light – this is something that speaks volumes about how Busse has developed her world as it isn’t outwardly discussed per se but you can acknowledge the fight for these forces all the same.
→ Dreamwalking | Dreamwalkers (ie. Dreamers)
→ Inherited Gifts per each ancestral House (ie. Dreamers, Waters, Fire and Earth, Wisdom, Healing, Light and Courage)
→ Souls and their innate energies (loved the visual differences between good/evil)
As we are peering into this world through Selene’s journey as a dreamwalker – it is her gift we are first presented with understanding. The concept behind dreamwalking is a clever one but it has a hardened and twisted view of right and wrong; wherein the choice to sustain oneself in this world is brokered against the will of others who are not giving consent to what a dreamwalker can gain out of their dreams.
Part of the gift of dreamwalking is the controlling aspect of what that gift involves – where you can either influence a person to dream or to re-direct their focus towards the nightmares which live off their innermost fears – it is a crucial choice for dreamers to inflict emotion on those they entreat inside – it also a measure of ethics to will yourself to cause such influence and to become hardened against the choices therein.
One of the more beautiful visuals within the series is how the soul is represented. It was by far one of my favourite passages within Mark of the Raven and a critical glimpse I felt of where the writer’s impression on the story was centrally focused.
It is within the dreamscapes where the Ravenwood women can shapeshift – having read a lovely and beautiful collection of short stories featuring corvids – I can attest to how Busse has chosen to write about her chosen corvid the raven as being not only accurate towards their nature but it is the right choice of which bird the Ravenwood women should use as shifters.
Selene Ravenwood, once the heir to House Ravenwood, is now an exile. On the run and free of her family's destiny, Selene hopes to find the real reason her family was given the gift of dreamwalking. But first she must adapt to her new life as wife to Lord Damien Maris, the man she was originally assigned to kill.
While adjusting to her marriage and her home in the north, her power over dreams begins to grow. As the strongest dreamwalker to exist in ages, her expanding power attracts not only nightmares but the attention of the Dark Lady herself.
With a war looming on the horizon and a wicked being after her gift, Selene is faced with a choice: embrace the Dark Lady's offer, or search out the one who gave her the gift of dreamwalking. One path offers power, the other offers freedom. But time is running out, and soon her choice will be made for her.
Places to find the book:
Series: Ravenwood Saga
Published by Bethany House Publishers
on 30th April, 2019
an imprint of Baker Publishing Group
Formats Available: Hardback, Trade paperback, Audiobook and Ebook
The Ravenwood Saga:
I am in LOVE with the cover art for this series!
Mark of the Raven (book one)
Flight of the Raven (book two)
→ *forthcoming next* : Cry of the Raven (book three) → February, 2020!
Converse via: #RavenwoodSaga, #FantasyNerd or #EpicFantasy
as well as #INSPYFantasy + #WyrdAndWonder
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: