Raven’s Strike by Patricia Briggs
Patricia Briggs’ second novel in her RAVEN DUOLOGY, Raven’s Strike, picks up where the last novel leaves off. Seraph and her family have been reunited and are back on their way toward Redern, eager to get to the bottom of the mystery that presented itself during Tier’s captivity in Taela, the capital. Namely, what does The Path, the new religion developing in the septs, have to do with Traveler’s Orders? And why are so many ordered Travelers dying, and what is happening to their powers?
This book gives us a more in-depth introduction to new characters, as well. Phoran, the Emporer, is a frightened young man when we meet him in Raven’s Shadow. Here, he has developed a backbone and has decided to accompany Tier and Seraph on their quest for answers. The strange shadow that haunts him, calling itself a Memory, assists them on this mission. Its place in the story, and its relationship to Phoran, becomes clear as the mystery unravels. I loved Phoran’s relationship with Rennie, Seraph and Tier’s young daughter. Their teasing and banter provided some nice light-hearted moments.
We also get answers about Hennae, a mysterious Traveler girl who has joined the group. Her connection to Jes, the eldest son of Tier and Seraph, initially frightens the family. She seems to make the Guardian aspect of his character come out more strongly. Jes already has a problem differentiating between his normal self and his Guardian self; Hennae’s presence makes this more difficult at first. But their relationship deepens, and the reveal of how intertwined they actually are, is very satisfying.
Briggs does a good job at revealing information at just the right time in Raven’s Strike. There is a complicated mythology behind these books. Twin god-figures, one the force of creation and the other the force of destruction, lie behind everything in the world. When human wizards began to use magic, they unleashed the destructive one, the Stalker, and paid a terrible price in order to contain him again. Slowly we learn this history, including what the price was. We also learn who is behind the attempt to free the Stalker once more. As a big fan of mythology and worldbuilding with a lot of back-story, I enjoyed this part of the novel.
The final confrontation, however, seemed to wrap up too easily. The villain reveals himself in Collosae, the ancient wizard’s city where the group has gone for answers, and instead of bringing the group to the brink of destruction, only to fail in the final moments, he was rather quickly dispatched. Although there are moments of danger, I never felt as though the group was going to fail.
While both Raven’s Shadow and Raven’s Strike were enjoyable, fast-paced fantasy novels, neither was truly groundbreaking or astounding enough to merit a 4, much less a 5. Many readers on Goodreads compare these books unfavorably to much of Briggs’ other writing; my sense is that she’s grown as a writer since writing these. But I am happy that I’ve been introduced to Patricia Briggs, whose work I hadn’t delved into before. She writes strong, nuanced heroines and has a knack for world-building: what more could I ask for from a summer read?
I listened to Raven’s Strike on audiobook, narrated by Jennifer James Bradshaw, who narrated the first one. She did a great job again, and this time, there were fewer scenes with the minor character whose voice annoyed me in Raven’s Shadow.
I continue to be displeased that I do not have a pet wolf.