Friday, March 16, 2012
Ravenwild by Peter Plasse
One of the most beautifully illustrated books I have read in a long time is Ravenwild by Dr. Peter J. Plasse. The gorgeous illustrations are by the incredibly talented Michael Longenecker. Even if the book were a dud, I would recommend it just for Longenecker's richly detailed paintings and drawings which are sprinkled thoughout the book! However, this book is a very good read. I spent a snowy day in March reading this tale, and I am now a confirmed fan.
Ravenwild is a fast-paced story, with a large cast of characters. In the first chapter we meet King Rolan Fairman and his second in command, Thargen. He the king of Ravenwild, a small country in the world of Inam'Ra and has been at war all his life against both the gnomes and the trolls. He is once again under attack. His infant son is endangered, but he saves him, sending the boy and the queen to safety with his wizard, Taber.
The story switches to modern day Connecticut and Dr. Blake Strong. On his way home from the hospital one night he is tricked into a meeting with one 'Hemlock Simpleton, wizard extraordinaire' who tells him that a great many lives depend on him and on Jessica, his wife, and insists that they come to Ravenwild with him, even though it is 'interplanetary travel', or rather, 'interdimensional travel'.
This is not a popular notion with their children, 16 yr old Orrie (son), and 10 yr old Jaqueline (daughter). However, through a series of events, their 15 yr old daughter, Stephanie, ends up going to Ravenwild with 16 yr old Erik, the young Crown Prince. The rest of the Strong family follow her, but they become separated.
In many books about teenaged heroes the parents are conveniently absent. In Ravenwild they were an important presence. The whole family has a sharp, sarcastic sense humour which had me chuckling along with them at times. The three children and their friends are each quite likable and are drawn with their own distinct personalities. They do share certain familial traits with their parents, which is common in a close family.
This book was definitely one of those books that began slowly, but got better as it went along. As you read further and the Strong family is broken up and scattered, the branches of the story start to split off into this complex but exciting tale.
As the story progressess, we are introduced many other characters like Jared, the kind and lonely human who lived out in the woods of Ravenwild for years, and the deliciously evil troll Emporer Malance.
The tale is told from a variety of perspectives, from not only the 'good' side, but the 'bad' side as well. All of the different species, elves, dwarves and gnomes have distinct personality traits and mannerisms within their societies, and they are really well portrayed. Even the enemy species of the book (the Trolls), have a wide range of good and bad in their society. There are the nasty Emperor Malance who despises humans, and the caring and helpful Daria and Forrester who do everything they can to help the Strong family.
This is an excellent first novel, and as I said at the beginning, the book is worth it for the artwork. If you stick with it you will find a wonderful tale that is slated to be a trilogy.