Raven: Blood Eye

In Book Reviews on November 20, 2013 at 6:00 am
Transworld Publishers 2009

Transworld Publishers 2009

Nutshell blurb: Osric has been living in Abbotsend for two years. He has no idea where he came from. One of his eyes is blood-red and he’s looked upon by the villagers as the spawn of Satan. Some Norsemen come along, sack his village and take him prisoner. They also rename him Raven. What follows is his story as he accepts his fate with the Norsemen.

I was debating whether or not to write a post about this book. My reaction to it was ‘meh’ through most of it until about three quarters into it when it turned into a blinding, seething hatred. Unfortunately, this book has invoked my ire and therefore must pay for the complete waste of my time.

Please be advised that this post will be super-duper spoilerific.

Right, so the main problem that I had with this book before what we shall henceforth call “The Incident” is that the characters weren’t likable at all. “But they’re vikings, Buffy. Of course they weren’t likable,” you might be saying. And you would be right to do so.

However, I only agree with that to an extent and say that we have to be able to relate to some of the characters in the book. They don’t necessarily have to be likable. I’m thinking about The Book of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric. The main character was evil incarnate but you knew that he was. It wasn’t sugar-coated. He did horrible things and it was amazingly chilling.

The problem with this story is that by the end of it we were meant to think of the main character as being noble and heroic but I found that he was pretty much the opposite of that. He started out being extremely wishy-washy and annoying. He didn’t know who he was, which is a fair point, but he was so tedious about it. Once he was captured by the Norsemen, things got worse. He cringed at a lot of the things that they did but at the same time he idolised them. It seemed to me like a classic case of peer pressure and going against your nature in order to fit in. As someone who constantly swims against the tide, this concept does not impress me. By the end of the book, he classified himself as a Norseman but there was no growth in his character. In fact, he got worse as the book went on. I wouldn’t have actually thought that was possible.

The one good thing about the book was that there was a strong female character in it. Unfortunately, she doesn’t show up until the last quarter of the book. Then the main character falls in love with her and he turns super creepy.

But let’s talk about “The Incident” and how Mr. Kristian broke my trust.

So, three quarters of the way into the book, the Norsemen and our ‘hero’ attack a fortress and take it. Once they’ve captured it, they celebrate. One of his mates drags a sixteen year old girl to him and tells him to take her and have fun. You see where this is going, right?

But of course, he’s not going to do it, right?  Heroes don’t do that kind of thing, especially that far into a book and especially after he’s just fallen in love with a different chick. RIGHT??

Well, guess what. He totally does.

But don’t worry because after he rapes her he totally feels bad about it. So obviously that makes it ok. Also, she was a no-name character that we don’t hear from ever again. So that makes it all better.

It’s such a cliche to say that I almost threw this book across the room…but I almost threw this book across the room.

Yes, I realise that vikings raped and pillaged across all the land but in terms of storytelling this doesn’t work for me. If you’re going to paint your main character as being heroic, he has to grow throughout the book. I don’t care what part of history we’re in.

The only reason I read that far was because the writing was excellent and I though that the story would improve as I went along. I was horribly wrong. The characters all sucked. (Except for the really cool, strong chick.)

There was an interview with the author at the end of the book and he mentions that he doesn’t plan his writing. He just comes up with it as he goes. I think  that some people can get away with it but in this book his lack of planning was evident. The story was all over the place and seemed to have no real purpose.

It has a pretty good rating on Goodreads which is probably because the writing is so good. Mr. Kristian definitely has talent.

However, I feel that he has betrayed me. He made his main character commit this heinous act FOR NO GOOD REASON! It didn’t serve the story in any way.

Frankly, this book pissed me off and I shan’t be reading any more from this author.

  1. Ouch! Thanks for the review.

    I’m with you on a hero needing to be likeable – or at least compelling in some way. I normally finish whatever I’m reading, no matter how bad, because I love to see how things end. But the few times I haven’t have mostly had to do with struggling to be interested in or being downright irritated with the main character/s.

    What you’ve described sounds even worse than that! I’m definitely going to avoid this one.

    Hope your next book is better 🙂

    • A book has 62 pages to hook me. That’s all I’m willing to give. But like I said, the writing was good, so I kept reading when I should have put it down. I really wanted it to be good. I recently came to the realisation that I will never be able to read 1 million books in my lifetime and that really brought into focus the need to only spend my precious time on books that I enjoy. (It’s a weird realisation, I know.)

      The two books I’m currently reading are so much better. Thanks for commenting!

  2. Sounds like a book I’ll be leaving on the shelf. Thanks for the warning!

    I’m always amazed at what folks will overlook in a book. Go figure.

  3. Ouch. Well, I know what book I won’t be reading….

    • Yeah. Leave it alone. Although, other people didn’t seem to have as strong a reaction as I have had to it. So maybe it’s just me.

      • I wouldn’t think it’s just you. I think protagonists (who aren’t being set up as dark-grey anti-heroes or villain protagonists) have certain lines they can’t step over without betraying the reader and the premise of the story. There are a lot of people who couldn’t read the Thomas Covenant books because he leapfrogs that exact line in the first few chapters.

      • I haven’t read any of those books. Thanks for letting me know, though. I’ll avoid them in the future. I wonder if people think that they’re being edgy or if they’re going for shock value. Or perhaps they just want to write what they want to write. I do think that there is some responsibility to the readers, though.

      • I suspect there’s some shock-value aspect to some newer works, as the whole ‘grimdark’ movement appears to be about pushing the boundaries of taste and character behavior, but the Covenant series is from the nineties if not earlier… That’s when I first read them. Maybe certain writers don’t understand what a turn-off, or even a trigger, a lot of this stuff is for many people.

      • Indeed. I don’t expect happy endings or for everything to be sunshine and flowers, but I want to see character growth. I also like it when a book makes me feel strongly about it in some way, whether it’s happiness, sadness or anger. As long as it’s toward the story and not the author.

  4. Thanks for another compelling review that was great to read, even if it was of that horrible book. I’m going to avoid it.

    I did actually throw a book across the room haha! So your writing of almost doing the same reminded me of that and made me laugh. But it was a glorious book that I loved, Paul Monette’s memoir ‘Becoming a Man’, and there was something he wrote in one of the last few paragraphs that just broke my heart big time. If I were to reread it, I’m sure I’ll find it wasn’t that upsetting, I was just being a tad dramatic haha.

    • Oh wow! I would never want to throw a book that I love! It must have been very moving to make you want to do that. I think that it’s great when books can inspire really strong feelings, but I definitely prefer it when the feelings are related to books that I like. 🙂

  5. I hope I get your post on my mail. i do not know why. but still you are an inspiration. I love to read from you.

  6. From what you’ve written here, it seems to me that the author took the 19th century depiction of Vikings as “barbarians with no morals” and ran with it. Did he imply in any way that the Norsemen were more cruel or savage than their southern counterparts? If so, he’s missing the mark entirely. Yes, sources say they were savage, but we must remember who was writing those sources: sheltered priests. Modern historians agree that the Scandinavians were no more violent or wretched than the Saxons or the Franks. I think that would be the betrayal by the author that will keep me away. Thanks for the post. If you want a historically accurate Viking novel with characters who don’t betray their own sense of identity, I’ve got one on my page I think you would enjoy.

    • I don’t have a problem with the author’s research because I think that he portrayed them accurately. And both sides were equally horrible, so it wasn’t just the Norsemen. And this is fine, except that I think that it needs to be handled differently from a storytelling perspective. I felt as though the author wanted me to feel a certain way about the main character, but I felt the opposite. He went with the flow and adapted himself to fit in with whomever he happened to be with. He would do whatever he needed to do in order to save his skin and while that’s what most of us would do, I don’t want to read a book about what most of us would do. The author seemed to really think that I should feel that this character was a hero but I thought that he was just an opportunist who was motivated by peer pressure.

      Having been surrounded by these types of people throughout high school I can tell you that I find it less than impressive.

      If someone is going to try to sell his character to me as a hero, I want to see him do things that are part of his nature even though it goes against what others are doing. This character constantly did things that went against his nature and flogged himself mentally throughout the entire book. I found it tedious.

      I think that it’s possible to be accurate in historical detail and yet to tell a good story. I don’t mind violence and such but I feel that it all has to have a point in the story otherwise it’s just a bunch of men raping and killing people, which is how I would sum up this story.

      Thanks for commenting! I’ll check out your page.

  7. Definitely avoiding this book like the plague!!

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