Book Review: The Raven Heir

By Stephanie Burgis

Twelve-year-old Cordelia, Rosalind and Giles are triplets, who together with their older half-brother Connall and mother live in a castle deep in the woods, along with their servant and friend Alys. The castle is protected by magical enchantments cast by their mother, who is determined to keep them safe. For in this world, the Raven crown, denoting the shared rule by people and spirits, has been broken, and since then all the aristocratic families have been fighting for control of the throne. As each royal’s reign is short, the occupant of the throne murdered, Kathryn, the triplet’s mother, is determined to keep her family hidden from the political wars. When the death of the reigning monarch puts the triplets next in line for the throne, two of the warring factions breach the defences of the castle. Their mother and half-brother taken captive, the triplets must run for their lives. And all the time the question hangs over them – who was born first? Which of them is heir to the throne?

There is a lot to like in this book. I loved reading about triplets, I don’t get to read many books with triplets (last one was Small Change for Stuart). The author gives Cordelia, Rosalind and Giles very different personalities and different magical powers. I loved how Cordelia could shape shift, and change into any animal great or small. A mixed blessing, for it got her into trouble as often as it got her out of it, which drove much of the plot. She also changes form to avoid her sibling’s questions, which was fun. Giles wishes to write songs, be a minstrel, and Rosalind wants to be a fighter but Cordelia yearns to be free.

Unfortunately for me, while there much in the triplets characters to like, they seemed to swing between being overly mature for their age and then remarkably young. It bothered me that they had only known their mother, their siblings, and their servant, and never left their home yet easily mixed with other people. It broke my suspension of disbelief that they were seemed so unaffected by their history. These are minor points and won’t affect other readers. The real problem I have with the story is the ending. I don’t mean a resolution of the wars (which of course you expect from page one) but it seems to me the message of the book is that power and position are laudable. This may not be the intention of the author, and maybe I am alone in this interpretation, but the last line in the book ( the eventual heir ‘was ready to rule’) did not sit well with me.

The Raven Heir is well written, there are some nicely written moments of angst for the triplets, and Cordelia’s urge to be free was done quite well, but the implication that it is right to be obsequious to anyone (let alone a family member) is something I personally dislike, so the best I can award this book is six out of ten diamonds.

Overall disappointing for TOTP and myself.

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