By: J.A. Andrews
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Publisher: J.A. Andrews
WARNING: There will be spoilers for Dragon’s Reach, The Keeper Origin’s Book 1
“The reason we should pay attention to Sable’s story isn’t because it changed the world, we should pay attention because she came to understand the power of words, the power that each of us has to change the world around us.” From The History of Queensland, by Keeper Will. JA Andrews, Dragon’s Reach
Raven’s Ruin, by JA Andrews, is how you write a sequel just as masterful as the first novel. The story, as with the first book, captivated me from the first page and immediately drew me back into Sable’s story. The brilliance of Ms. Andrews writing is her characters that are richly developed and intertwine with a powerful story of political intrigue, betrayal, family and love. The characters have grown beyond who they were in Dragon’s Reach, and Sable is an exceptional character. Raven’s Ruin picks up exactly where Dragon’s Reach left off. Sable is serving Narine, the Pheonix Prioress. Ryah, her sister, who is alive, is serving Eugessa, the Prioress of the Horn, and the acting troupe, along with Reese, has been banished from Immumsala. Vivaine has wielded her power to keep Sable in check with threats against her sisters, keeping her imprisoned in the priory, and using her truth detecting power in her dealings with the Kalesh. Though her sisters are foremost in her mind, she knows there are now larger issues at play with the Kalesh invading. Sable must become more than she is and embrace her growing power using vitalle if she is to help Tallus. She must become, as the Kalesh call her, the zabat, The Flame.From Sable’s time in the priory, her use of her growing power, the rebel camps of the north, and a battle for Immusmala, Raven’s Ruin is everything a reader wants in a sequel, and more. Ms. Andrews is a force to be reckoned with in the fantasy genre as she impeccably writes everything from intrigue, magic, characters, and battle scenes. I highly recommend Raven’s Ruin, and the entire Keeper Origins and Keeper Chronicles Series.
The story is again told in the third person from Sable’s perspective. But Sable is not the same person she once was. She is still smart, caring, loyal, loving and daring, however In Raven’s Ruin, Sable has found something more: her voice. In finding her voice, she finds her freedom, and that freedom is what makes her fight back, not only for herself, but for the people. When I read a series of books, the characters need to grow and develop through experiences. If they don’t, they are not relatable. They face different situations, and they need to adjust to them. If Sable didn’t grow beyond who she was from Dragon’s Reach, she would fall flat, and not become who she is destined to be if she stagnated in her constant need to rescue and serve others. For example, we know how protective and loyal she is, especially to her sisters. However, when she thinks about her sister’s situations, she comes realize they no longer need her help. I found that especially important for her to see that they could take care of themselves, and thus, she begins to see her own worth and value. As she sees this freedom, her own powers using vitalle begin to grow as well, as do her relationships with others.
“Far down the valley, Tutella Island sat like a treed lump in the middle of the river. Talia and Ryah were still there, but the thought felt less terrifying than it had in the past… And Reese had been right about Talia-she didn’t want Sable to rescue her.
Ryah had managed the unthinkable-Eugessa actually liked her-and Talia had outplayed Kiva to accomplish her own goals. Sable felt a fierce pride in her two sisters.
No, neither of them needed protection anymore.” JA Andrews, Raven’s Ruin
The characters are much the same as they were in Dragon’s Reach. New additions are Ambassador Bastian of the Kalesh, Flibbet the Peddler, the rebel leader, Tanis, Terrane, a rebel and friend of Reese, Gwen, an abbess who once served Vivaine and fled with Sable, and various other minor players. Flibbet is the most unusual. He was briefly in Dragon’s Reach, but he has a more prominent role in this book. He seems to appear at the oddest places in the book and is quite eccentric and endearing. I feel there’s more to Flibbet than we see. He seems to be older in a way that is more so than usual and is knowledgeable and wise for a peddler. On more than one occasion he imparts wisdom to Sable that changes how she sees the world. Gaining her freedom was empowering. But what should she do? Live her out her life without a care? She would not be Sable if she did that, and the reader knows this as well. She is not one to abandon her people and land to the cruelty of the Kalesh. Flibbet’s words to her ring true:
“Or,” Flibbet said, “you could take the world as you find it, broken and jagged and weak, and you could step right into the midst of it. Take what it is and spend yourself making it what it should be.” JA Andrews, Raven’s Ruin
The pacing and prose of the story is, as always, exceptional. When the characters interact, we feel their emotions and reactions. When Reese and Sable are reunited, their hesitancy with each other is handled perfectly. After all that has transpired, they are unsure how each feel. It was not a “we are madly in love and embrace moment.” It was far more realistic and poignant, and is nurtured by Ms. Andrews as the story progresses. The love between Jae and Serene is expressed subtly, but beautifully, each seeming to know what the other is thinking. Narine gives off a sense of peace and kindness. Despite having to serve in the priory, Sable loves Narine and vice versa, as she has left an indelible mark on her, and when she has difficult choices, she often thinks about what Narine would do or say. She becomes a pivotal character in Sable’s life as cares for the Prioress. Her wisdom and goodness leave a lasting impression on Sable, and helps drive her character’s development.
“…But it wasn’t lords or prioresses who controlled me or the people around me, it was fear inside me, it was the fear inside us. Fear we fed and nurtured, even as it wrapped chains around us.”
Narine looked down at her hands. “Once you see everyone around you as terrified creatures, trapped in their own fears, it’s easy to have compassion on them.” JA Andrews. Raven’s Ruin
We see more of how cunning and conniving Vivaine is. She knows far more than she lets on in her dealings with the Kalesh. The persona she presents to the people of Immusmala is very different from who she really is. The question is why does she do what she does? For herself? For the people in Immusmala? She is a complicated character and I loved that I despised her. It is the same with Kiva. Knowing she owes him nothing and no longer fears him, Sable and Kiva’s interactions are perfect. They are now on a level playing field and their conversations are priceless.The major differences in the world building are Tutella Island, neutral ground where the Kalesh and prioresses are meeting to iron out a treaty. It is controlled by monks and no violence is tolerated. While they are peaceful, they are also well trained to keep that peace. Since it is an island, it makes for very daring ways if one needs to escape. The northers part of Tallus is where the rebel camps are. They are realistically written, with men camped out, cooking outdoors, in fairly cramped conditions. It’s what one expects am army camp to look like. Another major difference, and it ramped up the action in the book to a new level are fight scenes, which were not as prevalent in Dragon’s Reach. There are many fighting scenes in Raven’s Ruin, from trolls to elves and a final battle in Immusmala. Have no doubt that Ms. Andrews writes these as well as she writes all her others. They are exciting and there is also intrigue and betrayal that goes along with the fighting. It will keep you guessing and wanting more. And I have a feeling we will get more.
“Behind her, the beautifully clear sky was lightening, as though this were just a normal summer morning. As though the two armies outside the city weren’t about to maim and kill each other.
As though there were some possibility other than this day ending in heartbreak.” JA Andrews, Raven’s Ruin.
Raven’s Ruin is a brilliant sequel in a unique and impeccable fantasy series, The Keeper Chronicles. Once again Ms. Andrews draws the reader into her story and never lets up on the intrigue and action. I love her realistic way of writing the interactions between her characters. It very beautifully imagined and what the reader can relate too. Sable’s story continues amongst increasingly dangerous odds. From being kept in the priory, her adventures to the rebel camps, and leading an army, she is a force in an of herself. Sable has found her voice, her self-worth, and with it, her powers are growing. The characters continue to grow and develop as new obstacles are put in their way. Reese and Sable are hesitant as they once again find each other. While I wanted to see one of the cliché romantic moments, their reunion was much more realistic. Even the unlikable characters, Vivaine and Kiva, have been emboldened by the Kalesh, each with their own agenda. We see how very calculating they both are, and are truly complex characters. I often think it’s more difficult to write unlikeable characters. It is seemingly easier to get the reader to love Sable. However, eliciting a negative response takes truly amazing writing. As I said before, I think her character’s and their story arcs rank among the best I have read in fantasy. Ms. Andrews proves she can write more than a fantasy of growing magic and political intrigue by the many realistic fighting scenes in Raven’s Ruin. She draws the reader right into the action. With Raven’s Ruin, I can safely say that JA Andrews work is simply outstanding, and I highly recommend this book and the series. I eagerly await Pheonix Rising, as there are always her trademark cliffhanger endings! I also highly recommend reading the Keeper Chronicles, a three-book series set after the Keeper Origins.
Summary (from Amazon)
The growing power in Sable’s words nearly changed the world. Until she was betrayed and silenced.
A year ago on the land’s biggest stage, Sable’s voice nearly burned down the carefully constructed lies of the Kalesh Empire.
Now, Sable’s skills are merely tools in High Prioress Vivaine’s desperate negotiations with the new Kalesh Ambassador, who’s denounced Sable as a zabat. A rebel. A firestarter.
Sable would love nothing more than to burn down the Empire.
But with threats against her sisters looming, the acting troupe driven away, and no news of Reese for a year, she’s too chained and alone to even light a spark.
Meanwhile, the Empire grows on the south like a disease and stretches its poisoned fingers even into the northern lands.
Desperate to fight, Sable sends details about the Kalesh to the one ember of hope kindling in the north – a small, mysterious band of rebels.
Vivaine hates the rebellion, though, and her spies have discovered their location—and that Sable is more deeply connected to them than she knows. Unless Sable turns her back on the rebellion and pledges loyalty to Vivaine, the prioress will reveal the rebel camp to the Kalesh.
But Vivaine should not be so rash, because the power of Sable’s voice is stirring again, the old coals being stoked into flames.
And she’s ready to embrace the title of zabat.
Find out more about JA Andrews on her website at: https://www.jaandrews.com/
Purchase merchandise, including signed books on her website here: https://www.jaandrews.com/shop/
Purchase Raven’s Ruin on Amazon