Raven Rise is the penultimate novel in D.J. MacHale’s PENDRAGON series. (Expect spoilers for previous PENDRAGON books in this review.) At the end of the last book, The Pilgrims of Rayne, Bobby destroyed the flume on Ibara, trapping himself and Saint Dane on that territory. Now Bobby can never go home, but at least Saint Dane will not be able to destroy the rest of Halla. Or so Bobby thinks. Saint Dane is trying, as we knew he would, to find a way off of Ibara.
Meanwhile, the “Convergence” that Saint Dane keeps monologuing about has finally begun. Every territory is in turmoil. The territories have regressed so much that it’s as if all the work that Bobby and the Travelers did in the previous books has been wiped out. The Travelers once again need help but, sadly, a couple of them are going to die before they get any.
On Second Earth, Mark and Courtney have discovered how Saint Dane is accomplishing the Convergence. He has started a Cult called Ravinia and has groomed a man named Alexander Naymeer to be its leader. Naymeer teaches that everyone must contribute to society and that those who are unhealthy, unintelligent, or otherwise unfit must be excluded. So many people like his plan for an elitist utopia that the United Nations has proposed that he be named the world’s spiritual leader. Mark and Courtney hope to defeat the UN resolution, but they’ll need help from a prominent professor.
Things really come to a head in Raven Rise. The story moves quickly and there are several exciting scenes and more than a couple of emotional reunions. I thought the plot of Raven Rise was particularly sloppy, though. The time travel and the bad guys’ ability to shapeshift into any other character makes the whole thing feel loose and ungrounded. MacHale uses these tools too often, which keeps the reader unbalanced, never knowing if people are who they say they are, or if events that have happened might be reversed by time travelling.
Characters continue to act in ways that just don’t make sense. For example, in one scene Bobby has been welcomed to a territory as a hero, but his fellow traveler, who is wrongly accused of treason, has been imprisoned there. When the King comes to thank Bobby, he says his country owes everything to Bobby. Then he mentions that the other traveler is going to be executed in the morning. Bobby knows it’s a mistake, but he doesn’t explain the situation to the King, or even plead for his friend’s life. Instead, he stumbles out of his sick-bed, single-handedly breaks into the jail, knocks guards unconscious, and blows stuff up until he can reach his friend and they can escape. Why, Bobby? Why didn’t you just tell the King the truth and ask him to release your friend? It would have been so much easier. Too many times I had to ask myself why characters didn’t just do this or that. Too many times I didn’t believe in what they said or did. When the cop is trying to find out the truth from Mark and Courtney, why doesn’t he separate them instead of questioning them together?
And, by the way, the development of the utopia was Saint Dane’s goal all this time, so why is it that we are only hearing about the cult and its ideology here in book nine? I would have thought that MacHale made it all up just for this book, except that I listened to an interview in which he says he outlined and plotted out the entire series before he began. Some foreshadowing of, or build-up to, these events would have helped me believe in them.
But, again, I am not the target audience, so perhaps I’m being too demanding here. Clearly these books are much loved by MacHale’s fans and I must admit that I do care about Bobby, Mark, and Courtney and I want to find out what happens to them. Will the kids ever see their parents again? Will they ever set the worlds right? At this moment the future is looking pretty hopeless. The ending presents a twist that many readers will welcome and it promises some answers to all of Bobby’s big existential questions, but we’ll have to wait to get these answers in the last book, The Soldiers of Halla.
William Dufris continues to do an excellent job with the narration of the PENDRAGON audiobooks. Raven Rise is almost 17 hours long.
Pendragon — (2002-2009) Young adult. Publisher: Bobby Pendragon is a seemingly normal fourteen-year-old boy. He has a family, a home, and even Marley, his beloved dog. But there is something very special about Bobby. He is going to save the world. And not just Earth as we know it. Bobby is slowly starting to realize that life in the cosmos isn’t quite what he thought it was. And before he can object, he is swept off to an alternate dimension known as Denduron, a territory inhabited by strange beings, ruled by a magical tyrant, and plagued by dangerous revolution. If Bobby wants to see his family again, he’s going to have to accept his role as savior, and accept it wholeheartedly. Because, as he is about to discover, Denduron is only the beginning…
Pendragon: Before the War — (2008- ) A Pendragon prequel with Carla Jablonski and Walter Sorrells. Publisher: Before Bobby Pendragon. Before Saint Dane. Before the war… Every territory of Halla has a Traveler. They lived for years — some even for decades — before learning of their true destiny. What was life like for Bobby Pendragon’s fellow Travelers before they joined him in the fight to save every time and place that has ever existed? What led up to their becoming the guardians of Halla? The answers are here! In this first of three thrilling Pendragon prequels, read about Vo Spader’s death-defying adventures in the underwater world of Cloral, Gunny Van Dyke’s race to find a murderer in 1930’s Manhattan on First Earth, and the tough challenges Kasha faced on Eelong well before Bobby Pendragon arrived…
The Guide to the Territories of Halla — (2005) Publisher: All there ever was; all that will be. For the first time, see the amazing sights of Halla as only Bobby Pendragon has. From the watery depths of Cloral to the rugged mountain ranges of Denduron to the jungles of Eelong, from the Earth territories to the decaying fantasy world of Veelox, it¹s all here. So are the Travelers: Uncle Press, Vo Spader, Loor, Aja Killian, Alder, Gunny, and Kasha, and of course, Bobby Pendragon and Saint Dane. This is your private flume to Halla. Enter and discover old friends while you learn new secrets. But remember one thing: This is only the beginning.
The later books in this series sound a bit uneven.