Tile: Raven Song (Inoki’s Game #1)
Author: I.A. Ashcroft
Publisher: Lucid Dreams Publishing, 2016
Genre: Dystopian, Science Fiction
**I received a copy of this book free from Lucid Dreams Publishing in exchange for an honest review**
I will always be honest with you guys: it was the cover that sold me on accepting this request. I mean, c’mon…you got a spooky raven above a city. Brilliant red lettering against that black and gray color scheme. I am a huge coverlover. I am. I think we all are deep inside.
I also thought this was YA…but it’s really not. However, no harm, no fowl (get it? “fowl” instead of “foul? Hilarious!).
I’m dying to discuss this book for you…and I’m going to include some extras since it is a blog tour!
Let’s start with what Raven Song is all about, shall we?
Jackson has no past. Well, he has one…he just can’t really remember it. He knows he was adopted from the orphanage, dubbed “Jackson Dovetail” by his adopted father, Peter Dovetail, and became the son to a man who never got the chance to have his own.
Jackson has dreams. Bad dreams. He also sees ravens everywhere. He used to insist on their presence, but as ravens are extinct in 2147. The Barrier keeps most of the New York citizens protected, mainly from the radiation outside that killed off most of the animals and keeps life at bay. So the ravens can’t be real. The hallucinations are a side-effect of magic.
Yes, magic. There are a chosen few who have it and wield it…but Jackson isn’t one of them. He simply runs a semi-successful, mostly legitimate courier business, left to him by his adopted father when he passed away.
But the dreams are getting worse, and the only magical society in New York seems to care less about the shadows that haunt him. He tries what he can, attempts to get through the day, wearing a masked smile and going through the motions.
When the Coalition, the government in 2147, makes a proposition with Jackson, he’s skeptical. But the money is too good to resist. Donning their protective gear, Frank and Jackson go with Agent Walker to pick up a “package” outside the barrier. What they get is something no one bargained for.
And there, behind the glass, was no gun stash, no bombs, no drugs, no illicit data chips.
It was a woman, a young woman, eyes closed as if asleep.
“Well, shit,” Frank said for both of them.
The young woman, Anna, claims to be from 2022. But if that’s the case…then she has been asleep in a box for over a hundred years, deep in the middle of a radioactive wasteland.
Jackson seems to find a connection to Anna. But the Coalition want her. When Jackson tries to tell The Order, the group of magical people that shunned Jackson, they want Anna, too. But Anna just wants to go home. Why is she here in 2147? Who put her in a box?
There’s a lot of questions. And it seems Jackson and Anna might need to work together to figure them out…
Here ya go, bloggerinos!
A boy lay on the broken sidewalk, eyes closed. He was pale and thin, looking not a day over ten years old. His half-clothed body shuddered against the chilly night air. His bony frame scraped against the grime of the street as he curled into himself, trying to keep back the cold. Overhead, the stars hung bright and lonely.
In the alley, almost invisible against the midnight darkness, a man stood tall over the boy. His well-pressed suit was as black as the shadows, as his skin, and as the raven on his shoulder. The way he hovered over the child, he seemed a strange guardian. But his eyes were turned upwards to the sky, away from the boy’s plight, as if it was no real matter. In those black eyes the stars were mirrored, impossible and brilliant. Those eyes stared back into the past, when the celestial lights were loved and revered, when each constellation had a story.
Once upon a time… this was when the world had sung to him, the dream-walker, the song-weaver, the star-stringer.
Once, before humans had forgotten his name.
Now, the starry sky was almost hidden by the glowing blue haze of the Barrier, a shield cast over what was left of the city: proud New York, ruined, rebuilt, defiant.
The stranger kept staring upwards into oblivion, even as the boy let out an unhappy whimper, chills wracking his weak frame. The raven flew from the stranger’s shoulder then, alighting onto the sidewalk, picking past the weeds and rubble. It rejoined its fellows who had settled amicably around the child, oblivious to the fact that ravens were all supposed to be dead. One hundred years ago, poison had leeched into the earth, into the grass, into the grazers, and into the corpses left behind. The blight spared little, its kind no exception. Regardless, this impossible creature affectionately brushed at the boy’s dark hair with its beak.
At the touch, the boy awoke with a start. His wide, uncomprehending eyes took in the world as he struggled to sit up, his head swinging around wildly; past awnings and high rises he had never seen, past scrawled words and graffiti he could not understand. He teetered to his feet, then fell back down again as his knees gave out, sending the birds around him into flight.
He saw no starry eyes in the darkness, no stranger standing nearby. He was halfnaked, shivering, hungry, and alone, his head aching down to his teeth. The nameless boy shook off the dreams he couldn’t remember and wondered where he was.
If there had been any passersby on that cold autumn night, they would have sworn that this boy hadn’t been there a minute ago, and no stranger or ravens had been there at all.
Is It Classroom-Appropriate?
While this book isn’t necessarily inappropriate, I don’t see much use in a classroom setting. This doesn’t mean, however, that it doesn’t have literary merit. I thought it was young adult, but I only seem to find that categorization on Goodreads, and Amazon has it listed under regular dystopian and science fiction categories. The age of the characters also make it too old to be YA: we meet Jackson at 10, then jump 18 years to his present, which would make Jackson 28. The YA genre usually requires its protagonists to be teens or younger.
This isn’t saying that the book couldn’t be read by teens. But for the classroom, I would see this more as reading for an advanced reader. Lots of action and almost a horro aspect, so I would keep it away from those who are queasy with heavy action scenes or blood. (I’m not saying it’s a Stephen King novel either…just enough to make me stare it in this section).
This is tricky. It’s obviously an adult book, but I can see why some classified it as YA. The writing is excellent and keeps he reader engaged. It’s like a mystery wrapped in a thriller spun with science fiction and topped with a gob of fantasy/dystopian elements. It has everything. Definitely a good read for teen boys with a male protagonist, but also perfect for female readers with the dual POV switches with Anna. It has large appeal. I would say that it would be best to keep the age level at about 15 and up. When in doubt, go older. Advanced readers that are younger could be challenged, but unless they regularly read adult books in the fantasy genre, I would keep it to 15 and up.
Raven Song is brilliant. I couldn’t figure it out so I was kept glued to the page. For those who don’t like a slower paced plot, skip this. This one takes time for the mysteries to unfold and you might get frustrated while you wait. If you like a good book that keeps you guessing, Raven Song is one to pick up.
So I give Ashcroft’s book ★★★★☆, or to my traditional rating System (which clashes slightly with the tone of the book):
A little about our author:
I. A. Ashcroft has been writing fiction in many forms for almost twenty years. The author’s first book, written at age seven, featured the family cat hunting an evil sorceress alongside dragons and eagles. This preoccupation with the fantastical has not changed in the slightest.
Now, the author dwells in Phoenix, AZ (my hometown!!) alongside a wonderful tale-spinner and two increasingly deranged cats. Ashcroft writes almost exclusively in the realm of darker fantasy these days, loving to entertain adults with stories of magic, wonder, despair, violence, and hope, bringing a deep love of mythology into every tale penned. The author also loves diverse and intriguing casts of characters.
When not buried in a book, one might find Ashcroft learning languages, charting road trips, and playing tabletop RPGs with clever and fun people.
**Buy Raven Song on Amazon for $2.99! Check it out: Raven Song – $2.99