book reviews by Althea

The Raven’s Banquet – Clifford Beal ***

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This novel is apparently a companion piece to Beal’s ‘Gideon’s Angel’ which was published last year. I haven’t read it, but since this is a prequel, I felt it’d be fine to get started here.

Set in the 17th century, this tells the story of a wealthy young Englishman, Richard Treadwell, who volunteers in a foreign army to fight for his fortune and his Protestant faith.
Each chapter is predicated by a short segment set 20 years later, when Treadwell, as a seasoned soldier, has been arrested for treason, and awaits sentencing.

The first half is definitely one for the military buffs. It’s nearly all gritty fighting and battles. The second half takes an abrupt left turn, as a battle-weary Treadwell ends up in a rural settlement with a small coven of widowed pagan witches. The flavor that’s prevalent throughout the whole book is historical fiction – but it’s woven through with hauntings, charms and prophecies. Most of it is pretty ambivalent – real, or superstition? – but it adds a bit of an otherworldly taste.

I found the book to be convincingly researched and entertaining; and it moves along at a good pace. Treadwell’s not a terribly admirable or sympathetic character, but he’s believable for his time and place.

Thanks to NetGalley for letting me be one of the first readers of this book!


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