Rio is a healer first, a novice second, and he’s only a few months away from taking his vows to become a true priest of Astara. The goddess herself choses Rio to be her voice, and speaks to him and through him, marking him as her messenger with a descending raven on his chest. Rio’s best friend, Turi, is also a novice, but the worst one in existence, by his own admission. He has a secret he’s kept close, one he’s ashamed of. And it turns out that Turi was destined to hear another goddess, to be her tool and wield a different power. He’s given three bones that contain the spirits of three familiars. Turi must master his new necromancy abilities in order to save his friends.
When war comes to their island nation, Rio and Turi escape death by chance. But they are set on a path even they can’t comprehend. They have no hope to be able to stop the invasion, as the force is using not only mages who use blood magic, but feral vampires to attack and destroy. Both young men have to accept themselves, and embrace their newfound powers, in order save the world.
Along the way, they discover secrets and make new allies. Phillip, the first and only king of Trosika, has been awakened from his tomb after 800 years. With Astara using Rio, his destiny is changed for the better, so that he can save the country he once founded. And his fate is tied to Rio’s in a way that gives him a second chance, both at life and love.
The invading forces are numerous and powerful, but as Rio, Turi, and their band discover the reason behind the invasion, they fight to get their homeland back. Many perish in the ensuing battles, but they will not stop until they’ve vanquished their foe and established order.
Descent of Ravens is a sweeping epic fantasy that is a roller coaster of emotion. The blurb intrigued me, but the cover really drew me in, depicting exactly what’s in store within the pages of the novel. It was perfect to review for Judge a Book By Its Cover Week in Reading Challenge Month as the cover made me want to find out exactly what was going on. The epic cover certainly fits this tale.
This book is not for the faint of heart. Not only is it long and detailed, but much fighting, abuse, and heartbreak is depicted on page. On top of that, this a true high fantasy novel, and to be honest, I would only truly recommend this book to those readers who are already fans of the genre or really want to give it a try. It is written in the classical fantasy narrative, the romance is only a small part of the overall tale (though it plays an important role), and it’s highly detailed. Queer people abound in this novel, which was lovely to see. Told in alternating third person POV, it’s mostly from Rio and Turi’s points of view, though we also get some chapters with Phillip and another character, Mercy, as the main view. The author does this to great effect, with each chapter from the point of view whose character is going to advance the story. Andrews also makes use of journal passages at the beginning of each chapter from other characters that give us more detail and information.
It’s hard to talk about this book without giving too much away, as it’s the kind of story that truly needs to be experienced. There’s a twist on vampires here that I really appreciated, both in their creation and what becomes of some of them as the story progresses. The world building here is intense, full realized, and intricately detailed. Gods and Goddess created the world, the tenants that rule it, and the reasoning behind every detail is explained. I really appreciated that kind of world building, as I was able to truly immerse myself in the story and not be lost. I also loved the portrayal of kinji, transgender people. While there are one or two characters who use transphobic language, on the whole they are respected and in some cases revered. It was a particularly well done plot point in the novel.
But make no mistake, this is an epic undertaking. Not only are there hundreds of important details, but there’s a huge cast of characters. It’s not exactly hard to keep track of it all, but as the story progresses, it starts to take more mental power to keep all the names and places straight. It didn’t help that there didn’t seem to be a solid naming convention between the different cities and cultures. By the time I got to the end of this book, I did have to take time to sort things out as I read. The author does, however, give a foreword that explains some major things you’ll see in the novel, and an appendix of characters at the end. The considerable detail, while amazing, also bogged down the narrative at times and there were a few places where the pace slowed for me.
I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to more in the series. The sweeping tale embraces high fantasy and runs with it, creating a richly detailed world in which a reader can immerse themselves. If you’re a fan of the genre, I wouldn’t hesitate to tell you to pick this one up.
This review is part of our 2021 Reading Challenge Month for Judge a Book By Its Cover Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of five $20 JMS store gift cards from JMS Books (you can see the details on the bundle in our Prize Preview post)! Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing Grand Prize sponsored by NineStar Press: a Kindle Paperwhite loaded with 50 NineStar Press books! And don’t forget if you read along with your own challenge book this week, you can earn ten contest entries for writing a mini-review on our wrap up post on Friday! You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on Judge a Book By Its Cover Week here.