Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Raven #02 - A Time of Ghosts

British publisher Corgi took advantage of the 1970s sword-and-sorcery fascination by publishing five books starring a female warrior named Raven. I reviewed the series debut, Swordmistres of Chaos, and wanted to check back into the series to continue the blade slingin' fun. A Time of Ghosts, the series second installment, originally published in 1978 by Corgi and later reprinted by Ace in 1987 with a painted cover by Luis Royo. 

As the book begins, Raven, the nearly transparent magician Argor, and her sorcerer colleague Spellbinder are sparring with a young blonde-haired swordsman named Silver. He has joined the trio for their next great adventure. Soon, Spellbinder senses a dark force at work in the land, something that will bring Raven closer to her destiny of being the Chaos-Bringer. Argor, who can travel in and out of dimensions, advises the group that Lifebane has created a rift in the world with a bold political move.

In the series debut, Raven met the Viking-esque Lifebane and the two had a romantic fling while doing battle with a fierce opponent named Donwayne. When that book ended, readers could sense that Lifebane was “one of the good guys”. However, according to Argor, Lifebane has sailed into a nearby land and captured that King's daughter. To what end? The group needs to find Lifebane and discover why he is creating political turbulence to that part of the world. 

The first adventure has Raven and the group liberating a slave train where they pick up two more characters to join them in the fight. There is a small backstory on these characters and the history they share with Silver. That small story-arc comes to fruition as the book finalizes. But, the journey digs deeper into the relationships. After the slave train is freed, the band split up with different missions that will ultimately help solve the crisis. 

My review may seem a little disjointed but there is a lot that happens over the course of this 200-page narrative. I felt like just this book alone could have spilled into several books to compile one epic adventure. But, authors Angus Wells and Robert Holdstock (collectively listed as Richard Kirk on the cover) don't waste a single page. There is nautical adventure as the group fight slave raiders and an underwater behemoth to compose most of the book's first half. 

The novel's second half mostly consists of the group climbing a mountain range in The Lost Mountains and The Frozen Peaks (just the names beg reading!). The book's finale is a frosty affair as the group settle down to fight the main villain, a recurring character from the series debut, in an ice-fortress. 

This was one of the best books I've read all year. The epic adventure, compelling characters, rotating settings and atmosphere, and the general idea that the protagonist is on a much grander through-story is really an addictive flavoring sprinkled over this classic sword-and-sorcery tale. I'm going to have to do some searching for the next installments. Stay tuned! 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

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