- Non Fiction
The Raven's Head by Karen Maitland
List Price: £7.99
Paperback: 512 Pages.
Published: 27 August 2015 by Headline Review
The Raven's Head by Karen Maitland, author of the bestselling and much-loved Company of Liars, will delight fans of Kate Mosse or Deborah Harkness seeking a new, dark fix. 'A compelling blend of historical grit and supernatural twists' Daily Mail on The Falcons of Fire and Ice Vincent is an apprentice librarian who stumbles upon a secret powerful enough to destroy his master. With the foolish arrogance of youth, he attempts blackmail but the attempt fails and Vincent finds himself on the run and in possession of an intricately carved silver raven's head. Any attempt to sell the head fails ...until Vincent tries to palm it off on the intimidating Lord Sylvain - unbeknown to Vincent, a powerful Alchemist with an all-consuming quest. Once more Vincent's life is in danger because Sylvain and his neighbours, the menacing White Canons, consider him a predestined sacrifice in their shocking experiment. Chilling and with compelling hints of the supernatural, The Raven's Head is a triumph for Karen Maitland, Queen of the Dark Ages.
by Debra Found
A Gothic Mix of Dark History & Fantasy
I have read a couple of Karen Maitland's books in the past and was keen to give this a try when I spotted it in the library. Unlike the previous books I have read, this story includes tales of alchemy and an element of fantasy as well as the basic history.
There are three main threads in this book which you will be glad to hear do join up and make sense in the latter part of the book. Each chapter takes on a different thread with no sub-heading to indicate which story it is following. We have Vincent who starts in France as the apprentice to a scribe. He obtains a Silver Raven's Head and heads off to England a wanted man. We also have Gisa, the niece of an apothecary who ends up working for the Lord of the Manor who uses dark arts. Then we have little Regulus who is a five year old boy who lives in a monastry with a group of other boys. The boys are all used for a variety of experiments into the dark alchemic arts.
This is a dark story but, to be fair, this is a dark period of history. This is certainly verging on the gothic with strange magical events. This did add an extra dimension to this story making it much more of a mix of history and fantasy.
I was impressed, as I always am, with the quality of historical research that is clear throughout the story. This is an author who does do her research and brings this period of history alive with her descriptions. I wonder if this book was just a little too long? At times I did feel that we were marking time a bit.
This is a well written book but it is essential that the reader enjoys plenty of historical fact. I enjoy the depth of history in this book but it does make it on the slower side which isn't to everyone's taste.
Although I don't consider this to be the best work by this author (Try a Company of Liars) I did enjoy it and shall be looking out for more. In fact I ahve just downleaded The Plague Charmer to my ereader.