Monday, February 24, 2020
The Bookwyrm's Review of The Ravenmaster's Revenge by Jacob Sannox.
Author: Jacob Sannox
Length: 229 Pages/ 5 Hours, 52 Minutes (Audio)
Publisher: Alan O'Donoghue
Release Date: May 23, 2019/ September 20, 2019 (Audio)
Narrator: Nigel Peever
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
I have to admit, I am a sucker for Arthurian stories. Camelot setting, modern day, it makes no difference. I just love the mythos surrounding Arthur and his knights, and the hubris and betrayal that brought them down. If Merlin is a wizard in the story, even better. That's why Ravenmaster's Revenge immediately got my attention, and got such a quick read through.
On a field in Camlan 1500 years ago, King Arthur and his knights and army face off against Arthur's bastard son Mordred and his army. This battle is to determine the fate of Arthur's kingdom, and brings about the end of the kingdom, as Arthur and Mordred mortally wound each other. As this knights start to mourn Arthur, Merlin appears and offers them a choice. He will bring Arthur back, but Arthur will sleep until land needs him again, and they can sleep with him as well, waiting to return when needed. Of course, all the loyal knights follow their king into sleep, awaiting the day the land needs them most.
Moving on to modern day, we go to the White Tower in London, where the ravens of the tower suddenly fly off and don't return, which legend tells portends the end of England. The ravens, all six of them, fly off to their true master, Branok, Merlin's former apprentice. Branok has a plan to use the ravens to bring about his revenge on England for the execution of Charles I.
We see in a series of flashback chapters how Arthur and his knights are revived during the War of the Roses, when it looked like the monarchy would fall. Instead, Henry VII took the throne and his line continued. Its during this time Branok was apprenticed to Merlin. Arthur and his knights would remain awake and involved in the background, protecting England. When Arthur makes the decision not to save Charles I from being overthrown by the forces of Cromwell, Branok turns fully to the darker side of magic, and only the intervention of Merlin stops him from saving Charles.
Locking Branok into a magical stasis in the tower, Merlin, Arthur and the knights continue on through history. The battle of the Somme in WW1 was especially bad, with a knight dying and Arthur severely injured and never fully recovering, either physically or mentally. This leads to the modern day, where Merlin is living as a homeless itinerant, keeping his own counsel as he watches for Branok escaping. Arthur is a living as a rich business owner, and his knights make up his security detail. This is the setting as Branok makes his plans for revenge, which includes revenge against Arthur for not being the king he wanted him to be. Its up to Arthur and the knights to try and stop a wizard that is willing to use the darkest arts to bring about the destruction of everything they love, with no guarantee they will succeed.
CHARACTER AND WORLD BUILDING
Since this is an Arthurian story, even in modern times, Arthur has to have his knights and Merlin. It definitely does, although you find out a few knights have fallen over the centuries since they were awakened. Merlin remains an imperious force in Arthur's life, but Arthur is very much his own man. He gets a definite character arc you relive with him through the flashbacks into modern times, through his triumphs and failures into the present day. The various knights are a bit two dimensional, for the most part being loyal knights and retainers and not a whole lot else, although you get the idea that at least one knight went rogue at some point. The villain Branok is a tragic character. He really gets an interesting character arc, since so many of his life's tragedies are a direct result of Arthur and Merlin's actions, even though he's not an innocent himself.
The various historical settings are obviously well researched. The modern day London settings are well thought out, and you get a real sense of the where the action is taking place. Since its flashbacks take place as far back as the 6th century, there's a lot of creative license with the historical settings, but they have a very real feel, immersing the reader into the setting.
The narrative duties are handled by Nigel Peever. This was the first time I've heard his work, and it was an enjoyable listen. He creates a variety of voices for the various characters using various accents and tones, avoiding the trap of repeating voices for the characters. His narrative pacing is solid, never devolving to monotone, and he really emotes well while in character. I look forward to hearing him in the future.
As I stated before, I'm a sucker for all things Arthurian. Well, except for that last movie with Charlie Hunnam. Anyways, this is the kind of urban fantasy tale with enough story and action to appeal to a wide array of people. If you like the kind of story Steve McHugh tells with his Hellequin Chronicles, this should appeal to you.