Review: Jack of Ravens

Jack of Ravens
Jack of Ravens by Mark Chadbourn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An engaging and challenging read with a very distinct style that lived up to the quote from The Times emblazoned on the cover, ‘A sumptous feast of fairytale, magic, dark gothic horror and romance’.

This is the tale of Jack Churchill, ‘Church’, who finds himself transported mysteriously back to 100BC and a Celtic Tribe, far from the woman he loves. So begins a journey to discover his identity and to make his way back to his beloved. On the way we plunge through a number of different time periods, meeting a number of others like him. The history sounds like ours, but isn’t always. Things are being changed, challenged by the forces that rise up against Church and his companions.

I enjoyed this book a lot – although having now discovered there was a previous series I wonder whether somethings might have been clearer had I read this first. The moving through time periods, some much explored in similar novels, others not so, was fun, although occasionally I wished that Chadbourn would settle in one a bit longer – although I suspect that sense of disorientation was something he was after. This is also seen in the style of writing which gives the book a distinctive flavour. He regularly changes the way he tells the tale, switching between the characters, moving from the events being told in the present to their being narrated in hindsight, or even simply alluded to by one of the characters in another discussion. It is a complicated plot with many characters and elements to be considered, leaving you wondering if you have grasped what it is really about – but again, that may well be what is intended.

The theme of time-and-or-continent-hopping hero or tragically separated lovers is nothing new, but the way this tale is told has a very fresh feel to it which caught my imagination. This is not your regular run-of-the-mill time fantasy of which there are now sadly all too many. I will be looking out for the sequel.

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