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The Raven's Head

The Raven's Head - Karen Maitland Vincent, an orphan scribe in France, discovers treachery and attempts to convey it to his master, Philippe, le Comte de Lingones, in the hope that his daughter Amée will fall madly in love with him. Vincent thinks he is being awarded by being given a mysterious silver Raven's head flask, but unbeknownst to him the ubiquitous Raven's head is etched with tiny carvings that mark it out as witchcraft and Vincent must flee France if he values his life.

This book was extremely difficult to follow. It can be separated in to two books, wherein one is narrated in the first person (present-tense) by Vincent-who later becomes Laurent-in a very conceited manner with no shame at all, and the other is narrated in the third person (present tense) and concerns Gisa, the niece of an apothecary and Wilky-who later becomes Regulus-, the son of a farmer, who is given to the White Canons in lieu of a debt.

I found that the first-person narrative disjointed the whole novel and it ceased to flow; the necessity to tell these parts in first person is a mystery to me. There were over 50 chapters, but each one was so short it felt as if it were being told via many stops and starts. Vincent as a character was as dull as he believed his life was and his "love" for the Comte's daughter was bile-rising. His journey from France to London was one huge Carry On Alchemist escapade with little actually happening, except the miraculous revelation that a man who has spent all his life surrounded by books can spin a good yarn.

The third person narratives were often very pleasant, though far too short and the present-tense narration was off-putting. The character of Wilky/Regulus was quite intriguing despite the fact he was a young boy who didn't understand what was happening, but since the chapters were much too short we couldn't really grasp his true feelings. Gisa of the Apothecary was a flat as her chest was, but she made the story move along which was the main point of her.

It was written well as much as something like this could be: the chopping and changing of narrative was, to me, very unnecessary and I felt it would have been a much better story had it been told in the more popular third person omniscient, though I appreciate the author for what she tried to do. There were occasional slips within the narrative, and at times I found myself really lost within the story because of the short chapters. It was a fairly good tale, though it seemed at times to just drag and I didn't find myself excited for any of the characters nor their fates.