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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Raven Flight by Juliet Marillier. Volume 2 Shadowfell trilogy. SydneyPan Macmillan, 2013

In Shadowfell, we met Neryn, a Caller. This means she can call the Good Folk(various varieties of what we would call fairies) and they must come. Unfortunately, in Alban, the alternate version of Scotland in which she lives, this is not an advantage. Anyone suspected of being "canny" - which can include especially good sight or skill in an ordinary thing such as spinning or archery - is hauled in by the King's Enforcers and Enthralled to make them loyal to him. But the process doesn't always work, leaving the victim a mindless wreck, such as Neryn's grandmother. No wonder she was on the run, first with her father, who died in a fire, then by herself and with double-agent Enforcer, Flint, who took her to a rebel group at Shadowfell, where she was made welcome as a potential weapon in their fight against the evil King.

Now, she must visit the Guardians, major Good Folk who can teach her skills she will need to help her in the fight against the tyrant without doing too much damage to any Good Folk she may Call. It isn't easy to reach them and in one case, the Guardian needs to be helped out of his own grieving for a dead child and lost wife before he can help her. He's been asleep for three hundred years, so it will be tough...

This is yet more powerful writing by the doyenne of folk tale-themed fiction Juliet Marillier. Nothing is ever easy, characters you care about can die, sometimes offstage while the protagonist is busy doing vital work elsewhere, love is not a good idea for rebels who may find it used against them if their loved ones are taken prisoner and the Good People who, in other novels of this kind, are not given much depth, are all too human, if you can call it that, with human needs and sorrows. They are long-lived - even the servants of The Lord Of The North have been waiting for him for three centuries, cooking and darning socks and watching his bed -  but can be killed and there's no "Halls of Mandos" for them to wait till they're simply reborn. Death is death, as for humans.

I like the Scottish flavour; I've only read her Irish-themed books before these. It's interesting to note that the Good Folk all speak with Scottish accents, nobody else does.

Just a warning, it ends on a cliffhanger. I'm not sure when the final volume, The Caller, will be out; I asked for this one to read while waiting. Be patient. Don't try to read this until you've read the first - but read it! The first novel, Shadowfell, has been reviewed on this site.

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