In Thanopolis, those gifted with magic are assigned undead spirits to guard them—and control them. Ever since Rovan’s father died trying to keep her from this fate, she’s hidden her magic. But when she accidentally reveals her powers, she’s bound to a spirit and thrust into a world of palace intrigue and deception.
Desperate to escape, Rovan finds herself falling for two people she can’t fully trust: Lydea, a beguiling, rebellious princess; and Ivrilos, the handsome spirit with the ability to control Rovan, body and soul.
Together, they uncover a secret that will destroy Thanopolis. To save them all, Rovan will have to start a rebellion in both the mortal world and the underworld, and find a way to trust the princess and spirit battling for her heart—if she doesn’t betray them first.
Blood, Violence, Parental Death, Forced Marriage, Sexual Assault/Rape (Mentioned).
‘They were accompanied by dark shadows lurking behind them – silent smudges against the brightness of day’In the Ravenous Dark, A. M. Strickland
I’ve never been so excited to review a book, and yet been so lost for something to say. I really enjoyed this novel; I found the characters enticing, the action was exciting and well-choreographed, and the inciting incidents felt well-timed – fuelled by betrayal, secrets and intrigue. I really couldn’t have asked for more from this book, which is why (now that I’ve listed the obvious wins) I’m struggling to find a way to flesh out this review.
I’ll try to stick to the initial scenes, so as to avoid spoilers, and give some examples of where the above is mentioned, and then I’ll try to explain coherently why I loved it so much. But just know, even if I cannot articulate in this review how much, I really, really loved this book.
The prologue of the narrative sets up the character dynamics, Father, Mother, Daughter, alongside the general world set up. Bloodmages are owned by the crown, and Silvean (Rovan’s Father) wants nothing to do with them. When Bloodmages arrive to take him away from his family, Silvean fights with brutal finality. The writing style was reminiscent of High Fantasy classics, but with the modern freedom and fluidity which meant it wasn’t clunky or over written. We follow Silvean’s every move and we watch through his daughter’s eyes as he protects his family, but fails to protect himself. We see, through Rovan’s eyes, a broken, bloody man carried away on the back of a horse. When I list it out, there’s nothing in this narrative which hasn’t been done before, and yet Strickland’s writing feels so naturally authentic, and has such an exciting dynamic to it, I just don’t care. I would read a hundred of these stories, if you could guarantee they’d all be as much fun as this one.
We understand, even before the narrative has truly begun, where the disgust and disrespect Rovan has for the Bloodmages comes from. So (twelve years later) when she’s arrested, dragged before a council and tested for the magic, it’s a genuinely tense scene. The people she cares about are with her, and she can’t do anything to protect them. It’s a perfect parallel to the behaviour and the action we’ve seen from her father. She’s a real chip off the old block, and it’s a character dynamic which (when done poorly) can be overused and underappreciated. Again, Strickland finds well crafted, secure and considered way to make this narrative feel singular and unique.
The only thing I didn’t like is going to sound like a massive nit-pick. The ending was too neat. Ruinsong did the same, and I’m going to leave it as vague as that because I don’t want to delve too deep into spoiler territory. It’s normal for stand-alones to have very neat or very abrupt endings, and it’s really down to your tastes how that will read for you. This should not stop you from reading it though. Utter perfection in every other regard.
I gave this story five stars. I loved it, and I’ve really strained to find different ways of saying that – because it’s just that simple to me. I’m excited by the fact Strickland already has another novel available for me to read, because I plan to start it immediately. Perfect for fans of Sawkill Girls, Ruinsong or Ninth House.