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The Raven Thief by Ashley Olivier (BOOK REVIEW) 2/5

Someone once told me the difference between third person and first person was that first person writers are all about themselves and like to talk about themselves. A first person novel makes the main character the star, a third person novel shows a broader range. If that is the case, then this is a deceptively third person novel- because it reads like it’s first person, not in written style but in attitude. I almost wish it had been written in first person, as I believe that might have suited it better.

After seeing the marketing for this novel, I was thoroughly excited for it, my expectations high, and I’m sorry to say I’ve been substantially let down. Though there is quality in writing, in format, in editing and design, and certainly quality in marketing strategy, there is definitely something lacking in story and characters.

As I set out to read this book, I loved the idea of it- a thief and three princes against all odds. But what struck me immediately was that this was not a relatable tale of a struggling young girl- it’s the tale of bravado and grandstanding, a 17 year old girl who is infallible. The first chapter alone choked me with Enya’s inner attitude, her “stick it to the man” response to things. What is strange to me is that, for all the remarks on Enya’s viewpoint of the world, of her defiance and arrogant rejection of the government, is that she is surprisingly lacking in character. When I start a book, I look for a solid set up to the characters- and Enya, to me, was a blank slate, another first person narrative in this wrongly third person book. In fact, the first few chapters lack any physical description of Enya, besides her furrowing eyebrows, and ham-fisted pieces of her attitude towards the world. I wanted to be able to picture her, to feel her emotions, but instead I found myself caught up in thinking how unfitting she was. She not only acted stoic and fearless towards other characters- she was written as stoic and fearless, giving little to no insight into real human emotion and making her up as a heroic Mary Sue, a copy and pasted hero. What I look for in a hero isn’t a little girl playing the big baddie- it’s a relatable young woman, just trying to survive, and that isn’t who Enya is. She is played up, exaggerated, and painted in such a way that made me immediately dislike her as a character, leaving me not wanting to read past chapter one. Even when she was described as scared- I felt like the emotions were told, instead of having real impact.

But read on, I did. Bits of Enya’s past began to be shoved into the reader’s face, more information being fed to us in all the wrong places. Instead of being skillfully woven in, these tidbits of her hateful, ‘courageous’ attitude and the reasons for it, were incredibly jarring amidst the, once again, ham-fisted movement of the story. I have to say, it even came across as inconsistent and unbelievable at times- and not unbelievable as in “fantasy” but unbelievable as in “people don’t act this way”, or “this would never happen even in a fantasy setting”. Even side characters were jarring, such as a mention of a pub owner we barely see being described as a hopeless romantic with his romantic “flavor of the week”. I found myself wondering why our time was being wasted with a mention like that, as it added nothing to the story but to give Enya an inner monologue on something other than herself. This was not the only time Enya’s thoughts on something seemed randomly interjected, and unimportant to what was happening.

I found almost all the characters to be lackluster and uninteresting- and even, sometimes, completely forgettable. Such as when the princes were introduced, whom you might think are main characters. Only, several pages after their introduction, I realized the only one that really mattered was Rowan. Niall was left as a reminder of Enya’s youth, and I don't think Beacon had much presence at all besides a few conversation points- so much so that I forgot this was a book about three princes, and not a book about Rowan, who also happens to be one of the most unlikable characters in this book. Though perhaps, this just happened because he was the one with the most attitude, and the character development doesn’t go past that.

I also found that the romantic undertones were cheesy and immature, lacking any real chemistry besides a school girl crush, and the fantasy elements of the world were often poorly explained or simply uninteresting. The plot itself soon became lacking, and the villain was downright a shame.

This novel tries very hard to be witty, sarcastic, and relatable- but it comes off as campy, and boring. The characters come off as one dimensional and unsophisticated, the plot moving generically along, hitting all the beats of a story with none of the impact. It felt like a bad soap opera at times, emotions told and not shown, a very amateur and almost fanfiction-like feel to what I wanted to be so much better. Lacking in flavor, often written with poor pacing- descriptions put in the middle of action scenes, for instance, cutting the reader off from getting into what is happening in order to describe unimportant secondary characters. Meanwhile, the main character Enya is thoroughly un-described, something that bothered me throughout the novel.

Reading this novel, to me, was a bit heartbreaking. I’ve followed all the social media on this novel for weeks, since before it was published, and I so wanted to see it be amazing. I idolized the author, who is well put together and successful at the marketing side of her craft, and hoped only the best for her novel, which wowed with intricate photos and careful reveals. Yet, I ultimately found it hard to even make it through this book, and currently do not plan on buying any sequel. Not because of the writing- because I do believe Miss Olivier will continue to improve her craft- but because I didn’t enjoy the characters, setting, or plot as much as I hoped that I would.

Overall, I wish as much time had been put into the writing as had been put into the marketing. Between the poor characters and storytelling, and the hype it had to live up to, I have to give this a poor rating. The only thing stopping me from giving it one star, is the amount of work that has been done on the world map, cover, formatting, and artworks, as well as the fact it is well edited. If the technicality had been as bad as the writing itself, this would be a one star read for me.

My personal opinion? A good novel is always good because of the characters. You can have an amazing plot, but if the characters are dislikable, it will go nowhere. Meanwhile, you can have a sucky plot, and if you have wonderful characters, often people still like the novel. I feel like if more attention had been paid to the emotional depth of these characters, and if Enya had been a little more adapted beyond a hatred for the royalty, this novel would have been a solid three or four stars.

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