Either Patricia Briggs is becoming a better writer with every book or my tastes are changing quite a bit. As much as I'd liked her previous work, DRAGON BLOOD, it wasn't a "sink-into-the-story" read for me. With RAVEN'S SHADOW, I sank!
RAVEN'S SHADOW begins in the aftermath of war, when a young soldier making his way home to a baker's life saves the life of a Traveler girl from murderous villagers. The wandering clans of Travelers are persecuted and killed because their magic powers are feared. This particular Traveler, a mage named Seraph, is alone in the world, so Tier takes her home to his mountain village, where he marries her and embarks on a farmer's life.
Tier immediately captures your heart with his open mind and generous heart. He's a trademark Briggs hero--based on the two Briggs books I've now read, anyway--quietly heroic, loyal, gentle, loving, easy-going, yet a fighter when he needs to be. Seraph is proud, strong, and fierce.
Fast forward twenty years and they have three kids, two almost full-grown, and are somehow making do as farmers. But when Tier goes missing and dark magic is involved, Seraph knows that she cannot deny her own heritage as a shadow-fighter or keep her kids in the dark about their own magical natures. The family sets out to save Tier. Tier, meanwhile, is caught in a dark, magical conspiracy involving the throne and is managing to save the land and its ruler through his own unique strengths, magical and otherwise.
Really, you care about these people so much. They are strong and decent, each unique and interesting in his or her own right. The feelings between husband and wife were lovely to see, and the budding romance between Seraph and Tier's oldest son and another Traveler mage was sexy and amusing. Briggs' strength is in her characterization, but I appreciated the pace of action and the worldbuilding in RAVEN'S SHADOW too. She writes gritty yet not graphic stories.
I've only read one other Briggs book in full, the aforementioned DRAGON BLOOD, but already I can see she has an affinity for certain themes and characters that fans will find familiar. Well, I'm a fan now, too, and look forward to revisiting the characters. RAVEN'S SHADOW is the first book of a duology, but it stands well on its own. Recommended.--Preeti (17 Jul 04)
A high recommend for me. I agree with everything Preeti said. I loved the plot, but the true thing that grabs you are the characters. Tier is so decent that even when he's a prisoner, he can't help trying to teach the young men to be good men; Seraph is so strong but full of emotions that she tries to keep hidden and under control; Jes is so sweet and simple but with such a dangerous alternate side; and Lehr is so dependable and responsible. I could go on and on. I came to care about the whole family so much. And the romance that started between Jes and Hennea is the icing on the cake!
I've only read Patricia Briggs' MASQUES, WHEN DEMON'S WALK and THE HOB'S BARGAIN. I've enjoyed them all. THE HOB'S BARGAIN was a personal favorite with its unusual romance :-) but her writing has improved even more here. She's taken a plot that isn't totally unusual to me and changed it into something I couldn't put down. :-) That doesn't happen to me much anymore. This book made my day!--Linda (20 Jul 04)
I saved this book for the plane trip to Worldcon. I hate traveling and knew I could count on Briggs to distract me from the stress. Preeti already gave a summary of the book, so I'll only add that I also loved this book.
Briggs is, hands-down, a master at creating likable, decent heroes you fall in love with: strong, capable, and above all, honorable. What also amazes me is how very good she is at creating satisfying endings even though you know thereÕs another book to come. I detest being left hanging and won't usually read duologies or trilogies unless IÕve got all the books in my hot little hands, but I know I can trust Briggs not to leave me angry and unsatisfied at the end of a book. And in any case, itÕs never a hardship to re-read any of her books in preparation for the next. She deserves to be in hardcover.--Edith (5 Dec 04)