Raven's Shadow, by Patricia Briggs. Fantasy, paperback, 334 pages. First in a duology.
Raven's Shadow is a fantasy in the classic style, full of magic, fictional racism, personal confrontations, and creeping evil. But, given that the author is Briggs, the main characters are all strong people in their own rights, male and female. The women have talents and reasons and motivations as much as - if not more than - the men in the story.
Our heroine, Seraph, is the last survivor of her traveling clan of mages and family. Known easily enough as "The Travelers" (no pronounciation games here), her family had been hunted and burned by ignorant villagers across the lands. Her rescuer, Tier, is a discharged soldier come home again but strongly reluctant to fit back into the mold (ha ha) of being the village baker. The two of them agree to forge a farming family at the foot of the Shadows Fall mountains.
For hundreds of years, the non-Traveler villagers and people of the Empire have been forming a secret Order based on a bastardized version of the Traveler beliefs and the recruitment of younger (disenfranchised) sons of nobility. The few with magic among them have secretly kidnapped and sacrificed Travelers in order to gain what magic they had. Through secrecy and guile, they decide that Tier is their next sacrifice. His capture, and his intelligent manipulation of his captors, is half of the answer to the distruction of the Order and the reintegration of those sons into service of the Emperor. His wife Seraph's late-coming maturity is the other half. Not magical maturity, mind you, but she finally realizes how to deal with groups of people by other than shouting at them.
One of the things that I really enjoyed is that Saraph's sister-in-law never likes her. Ever. Even when they have to work together to rescue Saraph's daughter and brother-in-law, the two women still don't resolve their animosity. I like this lack of resolution because it is in line with both of the women's characters, and keeps the book from feeling too easy.
And thank the gods that the cover had almost nothing to do with the book! With a wild leap of faith, I could say that the cover illustration of a richly-yet-half-dressed sorceress is the main character Seraph and her son
, not her sidekick, familiar, or boyfriend.
I picked this book up as a recommendation from Make_Your_Move. She loaned the series to me way back this spring.
I recommend the book to people who like classic fantasy with modern mindsets.New-to-me Books for 2012JanuaryHouse of the Star
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In case you want back references, here is the Books for 2011 round-up post