REVIEW: Raven Flight (Shadowfell #2)

Raven Flight: A Shadowfell novel - Juliet Marillier

Raven Flight definitely suffers from the dreaded "middle book syndrome." I know that this series can be riveting; I felt it when I read Shadowfell, and I felt it when I got to the last 5% of this book. But, everything leading up to the ending, with the exception of one pretty intense scene, can mostly be described by the word "meh."

You see, I had two major problems with Raven Flight - one being Neryn, and the other being the pacing. These problems are somewhat intertwined, as Neryn just isn't a strong enough character with exciting enough adventures to carry this book on her own.

The last part of the book blurb says, "What Flint learns from the king will change the battlefield entirely—but in whose favor, no one knows." I was hoping that this meant we'd spend more time in the book from Flint's point-of-view, but even though that happens, it can't be for more than 20 pages total, if that. (Also, that blurb is really unfair, considering "what Flint learns from the king" happens in the last few pages, and will clearly be pivotal to the next book, not this one.)

So, we're stuck with Neryn for most of the book, for better or worse, and I'd have to say that it's mostly for the worse. Whereas Flint is a deep and complex character that I want to spend my time with, Neryn is just vanilla - that is, when she's not frustrating the heck out of me.

For example, Neryn's constant angst over killing the enemy really bothered me. Not that I expected her to be a cold-blooded killer or anything, but she joined the rebellion, for lord's sake. Rebellion means war, which means death - so, it's okay for the deaths to occur, as long as it isn't her specifically causing said deaths? That seems pretty hypocritical to me. Then, when she did have to kill people out of necessity, men who would have raped and killed her and Tali, mind you, she anguishes over it.

I added a prayer for the men who had died or been forever changed here. They had performed their own act of violence. But, like the Enforcers who had fallen in last autumn’s battle, they had been sons, fathers, brothers, husbands. Someone would mourn their loss; someone had loved them.

They were would-be rapists and murderers; geez, forgive me if I'm not busting out my tiny violin. If Marillier wanted me to empathize with Neryn here, she should have made the men she killed less horrific at least. Especially when compared to Flint's burden of having to kill men who trust and believe in him, Neryn's angst just seems petulant in comparison.

Regarding Neryn and Flint as a couple, they are separated for most of the novel. The romance between them is very sweet, and I did really enjoy the brief moments they got to spend together. However, there just doesn't seem to be enough nurturing of this particular couple to make the level of intensity of their feelings make much sense, especially when Neryn is constantly proving that she lacks faith in Flint. (Yes, that's just another thing to add to the list of things that frustrated me about Neryn - she never seems to be able to trust and support Flint in the most crucial of moments.)

As I said above, I was also left wanting by the pacing of this book. Marillier's writing is often slow-paced, with her beautiful prose and wonderful story-telling being able to carry her sagas on their own merits. But, Raven Flight seemed especially slow, with really not much happening for the majority of the book, and without a strong over-arching story to really pull the reader through these moments. The ending to the book was jaw-dropping and intense, and there was one scene involving Flint's "Enthralling" that had me on the edge of my seat, but I wish more of the book could have been filled with that kind of energy.

With that said, I'm not scared off of the Shadowfell series for good, because I have faith in Marillier and faith in this series. I just hope that the next book shows major improvements from this one.