Synopis (from Goodreads):
The Raven are six men and an elf. They have fought together for years. When they agree to escort a Xesteskian mage on a sinister mission, they find themselves fighting for one of the most evil Colleges of magic known to man or elf.
Do you find that skeleton of a synopsis pretty bland? If yes then let me assure you that the book itself fully deserves it.
Ostensibly nothing could go wrong here. You’ve got a fantasy continent called Balaia with a dragon, a dangerous spell and a bunch of super magicians who want to destroy everybody and everything just because they hold a grudge. On the other end of the spectrum there are those Ravens – assassins but not murderers, how cool it sounds – who get entangled into the business of rescuing the world. They are helped by some elves and good magicians, hell-bent on preventing the worst even if it means very personal sacrifices.
My first reason for carping: a female magician called Eirenne. I hated her.
Eirenne is a woman and a mother but her reasoning and thinking was rather uncharacteristic to say the least of it. Imagine somebody who one moment is despairing after the death of her husband and twin boys and the next moment is SPOILER, highlight to read or skip jumping into bed with another magician, a man she chose for his genetic potential, not because she loves him. She wants to have another baby, like a lioness or a tigress which lost her cubs, the sooner the better. Where is the grieving in all its stages? Where’s the trauma? Where are the normal human feelings? Ok, I get it, the war and even then end of the world is coming but some things you cannot and you shouldn’t speed up…
My second and even perhaps third reason: too much action, too little character development. I understand that it is Barclay’s first novel. I understand he wanted to make it as entertaining as possible. Still, in my humble opinion he chose the wrong formula. If an elf differs from a human only in his pointy ears then he is just a cutout template of an elf. Oh well, who would bother with characters when there are duels to be fought and damsels in distress to be rescued not to mention a full-on warfare against ugly barbarians who breed freakishly big dogs and are, well, barbaric (nothing more is required, right? ).
Finally let me say how cheated I felt when I found out that the lovely, lovely dragon was given just one scene, at the very beginning of the novel.
An equivalent of a stupid action movie. If you don’t care about well-rounded characters, believable females, a logical but unpredictable plot and, generally, any semblance of depth in your fantasy it might be something for you. Turn off your brain and enjoy the ride. Lower sections of meh.