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Ravens in the Sky: A Dark Compass Novel (Volume 1) Paperback – May 31, 2015
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The story connects several smaller subplots that revolve around murder mysteries. Ultimately, as Irulen resolves each specific case, he becomes entangled in a deeper, darker mystery that directly relates to the very past which continually torments him.
Fortunately, he is not alone in this endeavor.
There are several characters that help him deal with the brutal world he inhabits. Farah, Kay, and Quinn become his companions throughout a majority of the novel. Each character has their own inner conflict as well that meshes (and conflicts) particularly well with Irulen's own agenda.
However, the most interesting character is non other than his flying companion, Max. The bird is his best friend and becomes a second set of eyes when it is most needed.
Overall, the novel is worth reading and I look forward to its imminent sequel.
Mr. Bly combines realism in that Irulen's magic is finite and presents challenges for each character contained therein. Although it takes place in a fantasy world, each character has a bit of something each reader can relate to, at least if you have a dark past... Still, the characters are enjoyable, the plot was amazing, and he did leave it on a cliff hanger so he better release the next one soon!
With that said, this tiny review doesn't do the book any justice and really, just go read it!
The characters are fantastic, interesting, well-developed and sympathetic in their own broken ways. The primary protagonist, Irulen the wizard detective is a haunted wanderer with a dark past, a sharp mind and a witty tongue - all great elements to a memorable hero/anti-hero. Those skills serve him well as we follow him through his various mysteries, which is another wonderful point to the story I truly enjoyed. Much of the time the book reads as a murder mystery, which is another genre I love and is a pleasant departure from the stereotypical "chosen hero goes a quest to save the world" motif.
That's probably my biggest compliment to this book in fact; in many ways it doesn't read like a regular fantasy novel. Some of the tropes and trappings are there, sure, but the author isn't bogged down by them. The characters speak in a fairly modern speech pattern (though many of them are oddly obsessed with testicles) which is not anachronistic because it's just how Mr Bly sets up the language of his secondary world. As previously mentioned, there is no earth-shaking conflict the hero must overcome, no evil army to dispatch (though villains and creeps abound), no prophecies to fulfill. The characters really feel like just regular folks traveling through this world with their own personal goals and issues to deal with.
The only drawback is that the main storyline takes a while to get going, but this a minor quibble as there is lots going on to keep the reader busy (there's even a brief zombie uprising!). Again, this stems from the fact that these are living characters in a living world that aren't "destined" to do anything. Stuff happens around them, and it takes awhile for all the plotlines to come together. It's a very neat piece of storytelling, honestly.
So yeah, a dark murder mystery with nuanced characters in a vibrant but not bloated fantasy world? I could get used to this. Get back to your word processor, Mr Bly.
The solution to that case only poses more questions, and one case leads to another. The solitary Irulen -- through no plan of his own -- begins collecting travel companions, and some of them bring troubles he hadn't anticipated: Sure, he can fight the forces of the dark, but what about those of the heart?
This is an engagingly-written tale, I cared about the characters, and I could trust the author to tell a good yarn, so I was able to turn of my internal editor and enjoy the book. Nonetheless, there are several uses of cliched and/or anachronistic terms and phrases that pulled me out of the story; however, these are easily fixed in future revisions of the text.
Overall, recommended reading, and an evocative cover. Well done.