Book 2 of Daughter of Ravenswood Series
By Kim Cleary
This is the first book in a while that’s really given me a buzz. I really liked it. That’s not to say that there aren’t a few challenges with the read, but ultimately I thought this was a great book – the finale is excellent.
I have read a lot of indie books recently, and the writing that gets put on the page can vary wildly – both in style and in rigour. It’s a very hard task to write great prose, so in my view, as long as the writing doesn’t distract from the content, it’s good. When I started reading ‘Truth Unveiled’, my immediate impression was that ‘this is really great writing’. Really great. It felt professional.
The author seems to have an effortless grace with the (virtual) pen, and can conjure beautiful imagery in a great flowing style. At no time are you diverted by the task at hand, and instead it is easy to drift through the book as a picture is painted in your imagination. There were also some very great literary aspects which were subtly woven into the text, and therefore melted in – that extra special ingredient in the recipe.
So, the writing is really great. What about the story?
This is the second part of a series of books, and because I was asked to review this as part of a review group on Goodreads, I haven’t read the first. But that shouldn’t be necessary, should it? So, what’s this all about?
I think – emphasis on the think – that this is post-apocalyptic of some sort. There are subtle references to 21st Century technology (gasoline and electronics and Humphrey Bogart!), but something has wiped all that out and we are left with a world that feels a bit 18th Century country life. Except for the occasional modern reference in scavenged items of clothing (for example). It’s quite clever actually, because you aren’t sure where you are – but then do you need to? It’s a fantasy world, so who cares?
Oh yes, and the rules of life and death are now warped beyond recognition. In fact, any preconceptions are blown away by the rules that now apply. Are they dead? Well yes. But then, what shade of dead? It’s all a bit overwhelming.
Our protagonist, Meagan, is a necromancer within this new set of rules, and this means that she is invariably an extremely interesting character. Necromancy is still a fairly select skill in this world, but it is rife enough to really darken the environment that we walk through. And Meagan is at the centre of it all – at least she is in this little corner of wherever we are.
And the story focuses on Meagan’s life – and in fact, her history. Without giving too much away, it becomes a tussle between Meagan and a powerful ancestor. Sounds strange, but in a world where the rules of life and death are blown to pieces, it makes for a really interesting conflict. And it creates a great central theme.
There are also other sub-plots, some of which have their place, but some others which are a bit distracting. I suspect that these sub-plots weave into both the previous book and indeed the next one, but they felt a bit peripheral as a reader of only the second book. I will reserve judgment on this until I have read the first!
But I think that this does actually cause a bit of a problem. The central theme of the story doesn’t really explode into action until about the midway point (though it is certainly referenced heavily beforehand), and up until this halfway point, it is not immediately obvious which sub-plot is the core theme. I felt a bit lost up until this moment.
And coupled with this, we have the silky writing that I talked about earlier. Because the prose is so easy to consume, but because there is no clear trajectory in the earlier parts of the book, I did find that my mind wandered a bit. The world is vivid, but once it’s been painted, it’s been painted, and without a clear steer, I became a bit disillusioned in places. I didn’t feel the need to stop, but I wasn’t compelled to rush on either.
I think that a fine example of this is at the very beginning. We are thrown into a scene where our heroine has to intervene to save the children of a close friend. You imagine, as a reader, that this will become a central theme for the book, but then it reaches a (sort of) conclusion quite early on. Confusing. There are some further sub-plots associated with this theme, but ultimately it is a side-story injected (I assume) from the previous book. It is a link to the past, and a device to show off some of Meagan’s talents, and so I became a little confused by it.
However, I will reiterate again that I haven’t read the previous book and so I will reserve judgment. But as a standalone novel, this perhaps lacked the necessary independent structure.
But let’s not be silly and dwell on this because, ultimately, it fades into insignificance. The finale is really very good, and as I mentioned right at the beginning, it is the first book in a little while (ok, maybe a month or so) to make me tingle – and that is, let’s face it, a great result. This is an excellently imagined and well thought out novel, and the rules of life and death are so overwhelming that they constantly astonish. Meagan is a well-constructed and interesting character, and her story is a very interesting one. A great read!