Confession: I was supposed to post this AGES ago along with a video to my YouTube channel. I wanted to wait until the video was edited, but unfortunately, I believe that all of the footage for the video is probably long gone (although I am looking for it). Still, I feel that I owe the author posting this. So, here is my review of Raven Thrall. I have not edited it, and the below still reflects my feelings at the time of reading the book.
Today we are going to be talking about Raven Thrall, which is the first in a new series by J. Elizabeth Vincent.
First things first, I just want to let you all know that I did receive an advanced review copy of this book many months ago for the purpose of doing a review… and then I went on hiatus. So it is with many, many apologies to the author that I am belatedly getting around to posting this video.
As I said, I did receive an advanced review copy of this book for the purpose of doing a review. I did not buy it with my own money. However, that does not influence my review positively or negatively and I am receiving no other compensation.
About the Author
I actually came across J. Elizabeth Vincent on a discussion board on Goodreads. She does appear to be quite active on Goodreads, so if you want to interact with her that may be a good place to start. She also has an active blog with a newsletter, which I will link below.
Like me, J. Elizabeth got serious about writing around the age of 14. In 2016 she won second place for fiction on the Blue Ridge Writers Golden Nib contest. The shortstory was titled “Transgression” and published in Skyline in 2017 if you’re interested in reading it.
Raven Thrall is J. Elizabeth’s debut novel.
Raven Thrall is available in both ebook and print. It is available through Kindle Unlimited, which I believe makes it a KDP Select, so I do not think you’ll be finding it from other purveyors of ebooks at this time.
The print edition weighs in at 452 pages. The only language available at this time is English. I am not away of any plans for translation.
But, I am aware of plans for something else! According to the author’s website, an audiobook edition of Raven Thrall is underway. I just want to say congrats to J. Elizabeth. My audiobook just came out last week, and it is just the most exciting thing in the world to hear a narrator bring your characters to life. So super excited about that.
Raven Thrall is the first is a series, which is Legends of the Ceo San. The second book, Revelation of the Dragon, is currently in progress. A prequel novella titled Healer’s Sacrifice is expected to drop sometime this summer.
Spoiler, I’m looking forward to reading both of these.
The cover on this one is just kind of “meh” for me. I don’t think it would have drawn me in during one of my Kindle scroll fests. It is well done and professional looking, but I personally do not find the design very eye-catching.
The inside of the ebook is well formatted. Chapter and scene breaks are well delineated and there’s a good, working table of contents. There are no egregious formatting issues to distract the reader. There’s also no real embellishment to the ebook, either. I can’t speak for the print version, unfortunately.
What does take design up a notch is the great map at the beginning. I’m a sucker for a great map.
All in all, I give the book four teaspoons for design.
Like most of my reviews, I had categories in which I waffeled on what score to give. For Raven Thrall premise was one of those areas. In the end I am going with three teaspoons and here’s why.
There’s really nothing groundbreaking in the premise for Raven Thrall. It’s fairly standard things we’ve seen in many fantasies before it and will see in many fantasies after it.
And I feel the need to disclaimer this, because it got me into some hot water with another author’s fans, this is not in and of itself a bad thing. It just won’t earn you more than three teaspoons in this category. It’s still a strong premise for a strong story. I just isn’t earthshattering.
Raven Thrall has:
- A young woman who is not quite who she thinks she is
- Shapeshifting people
- An oppressive evil king
- A “chosen people” situation
These are all elements for a great story, but they are also elements that we have seen together many, many times before.
J. Elizabeth gives us a reasonably sized cast to wrap our heads around in Raven Thrall. None of the characters feel throwaway. I feel like if I followed one of them around outside of the main body of the story I would find that they all live their own rich lives independent of the main character’s struggle.
Speaking of our main character. The heroine of the tale is a young named Mariah who escaped the clutches of an evil king as a child. When we first meet Mariah after the prologue, she seems at peace with her life of exile despite the bitter resentment she carries towards her mother. She is content with her inability to change shape the way other Ceo San do. In fact, she refuses to believe that she is a Ceo San. Just a freak.
So right off the bat, Mariah sort of lives some dualities. Being more, but not sure if she wants to be more. Loving her parents, but at the same time hating her mother. Loving her wings, but hating them. You get the idea.
Mariah is all about self-preservation, and that includes preserving her status quo. She struggles with her mentor’s lessons designed to break her out of that status quo and claim the full abilities of a Ceo San. So when she is presented with the opportunity to help Xae rescue his family, Mariah is more than a little reluctant.
It really is a great character arc. By the end of the story, Mariah’s sense of self and her beliefs about the past have radically shifted, but it all seems like a natural progression of who she is.
The world of Raven Thrall is well defined and consistent.
As I said earlier, the map at the beginning of the ebook is great. The author also seems to have a good idea in her head of distance and proportion for her world. Everything seems consistent as the character’s travel, which is important for a questing/journey sort of plotline.
Finally, the rules of the magic system – which so far really just seems to cover Ceo Sans’ shapechanging abilities – are well thought out. As readers, we’re given a pretty good understanding of what they can and cannot do fairly earlier, and the author sticks to that throughout.
Consistency is big for me. Your world can be totally bonkers, but so long as it is consistently bonkers, I can get into it. Raven Thrall’s world is far from bonkers, but it is beautifully consistent. I hope to see that continue in the next volume.
Like the premise, the plot really isn’t anything earthshattering. Mariah meets Xae and they go on a quest together to rescue his family. Along the way, Mariah discovers just what she is really made of. Again, it’s pretty standard fantasy fare.
Having said that, the execution is well done, and we do get a few interesting twists along the way. I thought the pacing was good.
I really enjoyed J. Elizabeth’s writing style. I enjoyed the pacing, word choice, and the overall feel of the prose.
My final score for Raven Thrall is a four teaspoons. I really did enjoy this book and look forward to reading the volumes that follow. I’m excited to see what direction J. Elizabeth takes the story. The scope of Raven Thrall was fairly narrow with the goal of rescuing Xae’s family, but now Mariah’s whole destiny has been opened up. I expect we’ll see things developer on a grander scale, and I can’t wait to see how J. Elizabeth handles it.
That’s it for Raven Thrall. Next Hot Tea & Tall Tales will be two weeks from today. We will be discussing Riding a Black Horse by Dan Arman. Hope to see you then.