Raven by Dean Whitlock

Raven is a mage in a world where mages are middling rare. A bird mage, to be specific, thought you probably guessed that from her name. She spent some time ‘prenticed to the only other bird mage she’s ever met – now dead – and some time adventuring, and now she’s on her way to the high reach, where magic is strongest. On the way, she stops to deliver a message and maybe to say goodbye to her mother…

Sorry, Raven. That detour’s going to last a mite longer than you were counting on.

Raven is something of a sequel to Whitlock’s Sky Carver, though I use the term loosely; the plots or a bit too self-contained and complete for me to really be happy terming Raven a sequel, but all the world-building takes place in Sky Carver and it provides some backstory, so I would advise reading it first. I think Raven is somewhat better, but that just gives you something extra to look forward to, eh?

It’s a good read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The magic is refreshingly limited and consistent without being rigid and free of surprises.¹ It’s also unusual in the YA realm (though correct me if I’m missing something), and pleasantly so, to have a book where all of the central relationships are intergenerational² – mother and daughter, father and son, apprentice and teacher²³

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¹ Anyone got a good antonym for “surprise”? “Bore” doesn’t quite cut it.

² Okay, nitpickers, the apprentice and teacher are technically the same generation. But the age gap is significant, and the stage-of-life gap is even more so. Add to that the (unsexualized) teacher/student relationship, and I’m calling it intergenerational. Consider it academic generations.

³ We need an updated term for an apprentice’s tutor. There are some roles for which apprentice fits much better than student – for most things you learn by doing, in fact – and the word apprentice is unproblematic. The word ‘master,’ however, is a different story. The use of ‘master’ as a master craftsman and instructor has mostly died out, leaving only its meaning in slavery and BDSM contexts – both of which have connotations of subservience, domination, and ownership to a degree which, while they may reflect some historical models of apprenticeship, do not match the less-loaded term. And ‘apprentice’ is a great word, and not ‘teacher’ nor ‘tutor’ nor ‘instructor’ really do its mate justice.

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