Wednesday, November 29, 2023

The Secret of the Ravens

Cacao, Joanna. The Secret of the Ravens
November 7, 2023 by Clarion Books
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Elliot and Liza live alone after their parents death and scrounge what they can from the local dump to sell in order to survive. When their freind Connor shows them a game where they can catch magical ravens, perform quests, and be rewarded with cash, this seems like a better option. They decide to move to the capital city of Kawumiti in order to have more access to the ravens, but the city is much more expensive as well as treacherous. They manage to find a place to stay, and are befriended by Seb, a member of the King's Royal Apprentices. Elliot is particularly averse to accepting any help, but when the twins go on a quest to get venom from a giant snake and Liza is poisoned, he asks Isra, a mage, for help. She sends Elliott on errands to get several ingredients, like black lillies, but those haven't been seen for a long time. Seb agrees to help if Elliott will promise to join the apprentices. Not everything is at it appears, and Isra has a troubled past. Will Elliot and Liza, with Seb's help, be able to support themselves and help find a way to make things right in the kingdom?
Strengths: While there are a lot of fantasy quest novels, there are not as many in graphic novel format. They are fighting against both an evil mage as well as an evil king, so there's plenty of action and adventure. This makes good use of the orphan trope bu showing how the two are able to use their wits and hard work in order to survive rather difficult circumstances. The author, who also illustrated Soontornvat's The Tryout, is of Filippino descent, and there is a flavor of that in the setting and characters. The characters exhibit an array of body types. There are some indications that Elliot might think Seb is cute, but it's just in passing. There are also strong messages about the treatment of the twins when they are homeless, and the imbalance of power in the kingdom. This has a surprisingly large number of details reviews on Goodreads. 
Weaknesses: I would have like to see a little more of Elliot and Liza's back story. Why are they wearing what looks to be school uniforms? How can they do spells by crushing up various flora? (Although there are notes about this at the end.) It felt like we started in the middle of their story. 
What I really think: This is a good chioce for readers who like magical quests like DasGupta's The Chaos Monster or Soontornvat's The Legend of Lotus Island. 

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