An Enchantment of Ravens
by Margaret Rogerson
A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.
Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.
Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.
I will be the first to admit that I haven’t read enough fae books, in fact, I haven’t read any fae books. Not proper fae ones anyway so this was my first ever proper fae read and I am so glad that I chose this one because it was such a pleasant surprise. From what I have heard about this genre, I wasn’t sure if I was going to really like it but at least this one made me fall in love with it.
This is a book you read by the fire or maybe with the background music of rain pattering over the windows, you are cozy as can be in your favourite chair and maybe have a cuppa of whatever you fancy. It’s charming and it’s at time witty and I just became really involved in all that was happening, okay? It was great.
“No. You surpass us all.” Beside me she looked colorless and frail. “You are like a living rose among wax flowers. We may last forever, but you bloom brighter and smell sweeter, and draw blood with your thorns.”
The story starts with Isobel, a human girl with a talent for painting. She’s from Whimsy, a place that was blocked off from the ‘real world’ and most of the village fares well because of the patronage of the various fae that pay them well for their Craft. Isobel is one of the very few people who has managed to get payments in charms without leaving a loophole for the fae to take advantage of.
In this world, fae are not able to create art or cook or do any of the things that humans evolved to do. For them, it’s the Craft that eludes them but humans have it aplenty. Fae aren’t entirely innocent (as if) and generally try to phrase their enchantments in such a way that it sometimes is detrimental to the humans. Isobel has, in her young life, managed to excel in wording her payments.
Gadfly, a fae who has had his painting done many times by Isobel, tells her after one such session that the autumn prince will be visiting to have his portrait done by Isobel. Isobel and Rook don’t have the best first meeting and that kinda makes the rest of the sessions entertaining to say the least. However as Isobel starts to paint him, she realises that there’s something missing from her painting and then at one of the last sessions, she realises what it is and corrects the painting.
“Why do we desire, above all other things, that which has the greatest power to destroy us?”
Unfortunately, what she thought was the missing piece in the painting ended up almost ruining Rook’s position as a prince in the Autumn court. So, Rook comes to Whimsy again, this time to collect Isobel from her home to his court so that she could face the trial of such a unjust crime. There’s adventure where in Rook is trying to preserve his image as a strong prince but at the same time, trying to save Isobel from the Wild Hunt and there’s the Green Well from which a mortal can sip to become immortal and fae. There’s also the Alder King who is not very happy with them because along the ride, Rook and Isobel broke the Good Law by falling in love.
Throughout all of this, the writing really shone through and I think part of the reason I absolutely fell for this book is the writing. It’s so beautiful and so charming. The fae of this world cannot lie, iron is harmful to them and they are very vain and they want to be surrounded by beautiful things. This story stays faithful to the mythology of the fae from what I read so I am glad of that.
Isobel was such a great character, she’s someone who really understands how the fae work and she’s smart enough to have escaped anything truly harmful. She’s talented and she’s resourceful and mainly, to my great comfort, she’s independent. Her love and care for her family was genuine and her feeling torn between protecting her family and trying not to sip from the Green Well was so good. Her very real love of painting shines throughout the book and I am so glad for that because sometimes in books, once the love interest enters, the character’s other loves vanish but with this one, it didn’t.
Rook was a surprise. After reading and hearing about fae and princes of the courts from other books, I was expecting Rook to be a cruel and selfish and not really redeemable but he turned out to be much more than the stereotype and I can’t tell you how I am glad for that. He’s arrogant and he does feel petty sometimes but then he’s a prince, we can’t really expect him to be a perfect being.
The side characters each had their own flare of magic and I enjoyed reading about each and every one of them. From her found family of Emma, March and May to the fae Gadfly, Lark and Aster. Then there were the slightly typical fae Hemlock (even though she did turn out to have a few more dimensions than I thought) and Foxglove who I really didn’t like but she did have her moments.
“Frankly, I had no idea how anyone knew if they were in love in the first place. Was there ever a single thread a person could pick out from the knot and say “Yes—I am in love—here’s the proof!” or was it always caught up in a wretched tangle of ifs and buts and maybes?”
If there were things I didn’t like, it was the insta-love that happened but I did manage to get over that because as the story progressed, even Isobel was second-guessing herself about it and that’s part of the reason I was sort of okay with it. Generally, insta-love is shown to be the true thing and nobody questions their feelings but in this, Isobel truly doubted whether what she felt was love or just a crush. Then there was the fact that for all that they seemed to have fallen in love with each other, they hadn’t really talked to each other much? Even during those sessions, they never spoke much of the deeper things. So I did wonder where the love came from.
However putting aside that one glaring flaw, I think the writing and the imagery of the book is enough to fall in love. I didn’t know what to expect and the book was the perfect surprise for me. One of the sad realities of this book is that it’s too short. I needed more of the world but oh, well. To have been blessed this much was enough for now.