The Review of Raven's Ladder
I made it. Almost.
I've had a little fun for this blog tour as I've tried feverishly to finish Raven's Ladder by Jeffrey Overstreet, the second book we've featured this month. Thankfully, I've participated in tours for the two prior titles in the series, so I had "content" to offer while I furiously flipped pages.
I actually finished late Wednesday at work, but I couldn't blog about this until Thursday morning. I guess that's cheating. Anyway, I can offer my thoughts on Raven's Ladder for what it's worth.
In the land of the Expanse, where four Houses (dynasties) were established long ago, two of them are in serious trouble. House Cent Regus has been transformed into horrible beastmen driven by animal desires. House Abascar suffered the loss of their home territory, and as they huddle in cliff dwellings, they are once again driven from their residence out into the wild.
Cal-raven longs to find a new, permanent home for his people. In his quest, he and his people will be swept up in the politics and intrigue of House Bel Amica, a place of outward beauty with a rotting core, and the challenge of the Cent Regus with their hidden secrets. All the while, the amazing colors that young Auralia introduced in the first book are a recurrent theme that offer a new way to all in the story, if they are willing to have faith.
The problem with trying to read Raven's Ladder quickly is that Jeffrey Overstreet writes dense. This is not a bad thing. His books are written with a lyrical quality that makes one stop and pay attention to the figures of speech used to paint a picture with the words chosen. I would prefer a more leisurely read, but deadlines are what they are!
The book continues the interesting tale of the Expanse. There is a lot to comment on, from the "prosperity" focus of the Bel Amican moon spirit religion to the more explicit faith shown in the Keeper. I would not recommend a reader try to pick up Raven and start reading - the prior books are required reading at this point. In fact, it had been long enough since reading Cyndere's Midnight that I struggled some with keeping plot and characters straight.
I have said before that this series is an important contribution to Christian (specifically CBA) fiction. Overstreet is trying to paint a beautiful picture, and there are patterns emerging that offer some interesting spiritual insight. He has stated before that he is not trying to push some beliefs, but allow an intriguing story make the reader think. Still, there are pictures coming out that offer a glimpse of where he is coming from.
It is a good fantasy series, but as I read it, there is a distance to the characters that make it hard for me to fully embrace. I can relate better to the noble Abascar captain than the main protagonist King Cal-raven. I have felt the distance throughout the series, but it was a little more noticeable this time, perhaps due to the depth of plot and characters from the prior two books that is hard to keep in mind over two years time.
I recommend the series, but if you are a fan of rapid action and quick moving scenes, this book may not be for you. It is more of a slow burn, requiring time to appreciate the different threads moving through the series (it is the Gold Strand of the Auralia series after all). The books are aiming high - they may not make it all the time, but the goal is lofty enough that even in "missing" it is still an entertaining yet inquisitive examination of beauty, faith, nobility, savagery, and finding what matters most in life.
For other thoughts on Raven's Ladder, be sure to check out other participants listed at the bottom of Becky Miller's Day 1 post.
In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of Raven’s Ladder from WaterBrook Press.