Sunday, 9 March 2014

One Man's Opinion: RAVENFOLD by KATH MIDDLETON



A couple of things before the review.

First of all, if you’ve missed the news about the fabulous event I’ll be involved with this Friday and you happen to live in the East of Scotland or are passing through, check out the information over at Ed James’s blog. I’m really looking forward to it.

Next, if you want to enter a competition where the prizes include a paperback copy of How To Choose A Sweetheart or The Rocks Below, follow this link to ebliving (it’s all online and no purchase is necessary).

And now news of a book that I read on International Women’s Day.

I was lucky enough to have a few hours to myself as I waited for my children to complete various tasks and functions. My choice of book was Ravenfold by Kath Middleton. It had me so involved that by the time I had a few hours free in the evening, it was the book that became my focus.

To my mind, this was the perfect read for a day set aside for reflecting about the rights of women. Not only that, it’s so well written that the journey was a pleasure to take.

The ravens alluded to in the title are birds that have become close to their human friends, a group of teenagers who hang around together enjoying the things that only children can. Life’s an adventure of sorts for all of them, but the fact that they’re growing up means that there’s a dark cloud hanging over them, especially the girls.

Ravenfold (US)is set in medieval times. Things were very different then and those differences are woven into the detail of the story rather skilfully. Above all, the role of girls and women is so limited and rigid as to make the framework tense and charged in itself.

Romelda Bolt is almost fourteen and has caught the
attention of a brute of a man who rules the area,
Oswald. He has the power to crush people or to raise
their status at his whim. It’s not long before Romelda is
learning to sew and is then chained in marriage to her
drunken lord.

Marriage doesn’t make life any easier for Romelda or
her family. Oswald is no noble man and lacks any of the
qualities that a decent human being might possess.
There’s a sense of claustrophobia about the whole tale
as Oswald tightens his fist and we get to see what
powders crumble from between his fingers.

I’m loath to give away too much. Suffice to say, things
don’t go well and Romelda and her family are deeply
damaged by what occurs. It’s this damage that leads to
thoughts of taking revenge and for me, that’s exactly
what I wanted.


This is a really interesting story. It has a haunting
atmosphere right from the off when a young man
slaughters a pig and takes away a vial of its blood
before leaving. It has the feel of a really strong, dark
fairytale where the cruelty and chill have the power to
enclose and suffocate. This creates a real drive to find
what is about to happen and a real need to reach some
kind of escape. I was at the author’s mercy from an
early point; whether she was generous or barbaric, I’ll
not say.

Back to Women’s Day. A read like this is a strong
reminder of how much things have changed over the
years and had me reflecting over how much more
change is needed. As I sat in my own bubble in a world
full of bubbles, I had to remind myself that the shifts
that have come through processes of evolution or
revolution have not been uniform across the globe. The
reminder is not enough unless it causes a shift in
thinking in some way; reading a book like this is one
way to get the cogs moving. One small cog can
sometimes make a big difference. Here’s hoping.

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