February Book Review: Swords and Superpowers--What More Do You Need?
Mark of the Raven
Author: Morgan L. Busse
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1/2
An inheritance is not always a blessing.
Powerful houses make up the realm in which Lady Selene lives. As heir to the House of Ravenwood, Lady Selene is heir to a secret power to manipulate the dreams of others. Preying upon the fears of others have kept the House of Ravenwood prosperous after their betrayal and near demise to the Dominia Empire. Now that the Empire threatens to invade again, Selene is forced to use her power to either save her house or preserve the chance for unity among the houses.
Mark of the Raven was a surprisingly pleasant read for me. I did not expect that I would be so drawn into the relationships, particularly in how the houses related to one another. What I thought would be a world of magic and action turned out to be a deeper story of discovering one’s purpose, truth, and the tension of two incompatible desires.
Lady Selene is the exceptionally gifted heir to the House of Ravenwood, who must wrestle with the revelations of her own house. While she clearly does not desire the burden of the family secret, she sacrificially carries it to protect her sisters. Her conflict between loyal obedience and honorable right makes Selene a relatable character for any person, especially a young reader.
I had a reserved sympathy for Grand Lady Ragna, Selene’s mother. While morally corrupt in her use of dreams to assassinate rivals, she is the product of a long line of Ravenwood women who have sought to preserve what is left of the their once proud house. Her heavy-handed approach to teaching Selene their assassin ways is deplorable, yet you can see the generational fear of survival in every choice she makes.
As a father, my favorite character was Caiaphas, the loving father of Selene. As consort to Grand Lady Ragna and a member of a lesser house, Caiaphas is helpless to directly help his daughter traverse the waters of confusion her gift brings. Yet, he is full of compassion and hope for Selene.
I identified greatly with Grand Lord Damien, a man familiar with pain and unsure of his own ability to lead others. The son of deceased leaders of the House of Maris, he inherited the mantle of leadership at a young age. His house’s ability to manipulate water gives him immense power to defend his people, yet he knows it is not enough to hold off the Dominia Empire. His father’s legacy has fallen to him, and he is unsure he is ready.
Among the other characters, each of the members of the great houses is presented in a stunning visual way. From the graceful House Luceras to the brash House Friere to the wizened House Vivek, I could imagine the different culture and mannerisms of each house. Personally, I’d love to visit House Merek and ride around on my own wyvern.
Busse has done a masterful job of capturing the feeling of “who am I in a world of expectations?” that all young people navigate. Themes of sacrifice and standing up for what is right kept me rooting for Lady Selene. Her struggle to understand the true purpose of her gifting drew my compassion. And her choices in the end? Well, I leave that to you to find out.
Faith plays a large role in the story. There is a clear dichotomy between the followers of the Dark Lady and the followers of the Light. Though the faiths are not fully fleshed out in the first book, I appreciated the exploration of how people find their fundamental motivation in the faith behind their actions.
The ending felt a little rushed to me, and I would have liked to see the dramatic conclusion carried out a little more. However, given that this in the first in a series, I believe that reward is coming. I’ll be excited to check out the second in the series, Flight of the Raven.
I would recommend Mark of the Raven to avid readers of fantasy who like good world-building. Fans of tribal magical abilities akin to Avatar: The Last Airbender will also appreciate the division of powers among the great houses in the story. Lastly, any young reader searching for their place in a world that wants to tell them who they are will relate easily to Lady Selene. The read is clean without language. Romance is hinted at. Violence is present where necessary, but never g
raphic. Characters do not always act appropriately to the opposite sex, including one assault scenario, but these instances are handled tastefully, are always depicted as wrong, and never graphic. I will be recommending this series to my own daughter, who I think will greatly enjoy it.
Available on Amazon.
No disclaimer. I did not receive anything from the author, nor was I requested to write this review.