Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized among them. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes – a weakness that could cost him his life.
Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love, violating the fair folks’ ruthless Good Law. There’s only one way to save both their lives, Isobel must drink from the Green Well, whose water will transform her into a fair one—at the cost of her Craft, for immortality is as stagnant as it is timeless.
Isobel has a choice: she can sacrifice her art for a future, or arm herself with paint and canvas against the ancient power of the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.
I love fairytales and was excited for a fresh new take on the fae genre. Granted a lot of readers will find similarities between An Enchantment of Ravens and A Court of Thorns and Roses, there are elements that set it apart from the latter. Firstly, a lot of fae lore is still embedded in the canon of the novel, but you also have smaller newer things like their compulsion to return courtesies, the Good Law, etc. The story is pretty straightforward until we are reaching the climax – Isobel, a painter, accidentally offends Rook, the autumn prince by painting a human emotion, sorrow on his face (which WAS actually on his face) and he kidnaps her to stand trial at his court. On the way, they keep getting attacked by the Wild Hunt, they start getting close to each other, but have to hide it when they take refuge in the spring court. Faery stuff happens and we get a somewhat open-ended story, but it is a satisfactory ending.
The best thing I loved about the book is the writing. Rogerson writes in a lyrical and beautiful manner, and since it is through the eyes of a painter character, it adds to the imagery created. You have these exquisite scenes building up in your head, which come alive with Isobel’s sharp wit and sarcastic inner monologue. She is a simultaneously young-and-old character – young because she is 17 and has not much experience with love, but old because she grew up faster taking care of her household, her aunt and her two little sisters (who are actually enchanted goats!), as well being on her toes since a young age when it came to the fae.
Having patrons since she was 12, Isobel is particularly wily and shrewd when it comes to dealing with fae, a fact that helps her survival throughout the book. When Rook comes and she gets to know him during their painting sessions, she starts falling for him. But when he kidnaps her, her affection (naturally) wanes. As they journey, and discover more about the other’s personality, a mutual affection starts building up again. But he is an immortal and she is a human and you know how that story goes – but surprisingly there wasn’t the angst I was dreading. Rook is surprisingly adorable, a cat (even Isobel says so) in fae form – he is haughty, impulsive and childlike (like the fae), ignorant of human customs but kind at most times. His regular pouting and tantrums and her at times challenging him and using his nature to her benefit had me in splits most of the time. Like there is this scene where he turns into a crow and she wants him to continue being a crow for a while so as to hide him, but he doesn’t want to – so she croons about how beautiful a bird he makes and he is instantly mollified. His smugness and arrogance come off as charming AND annoying, but goddammit he is cute. I think it is mostly because he tries to come off as this cool regal prince but fails like 80% of the time.
But enough about the romance! The central arc of the book is about the difference between humans and fae, and how fae crave human things called Craft (basically any artistic/creative thing the humans make) but also don’t like to be seen as weak as having human emotions. When her paintings are able to evoke feelings in them, a change starts but we do not know until the end what that meant for the path she was on. Her journey was a shift in the fae courts, but what her paintings served for beyond evoking emotions and what it means for the future of the fae is not clear. This is why I felt the ending lacked a conclusion, but only wrapped up hers and Rook’s story, and considering this seems to be a standalone, I was not wholly happy with that ending, but I am satisfied.
Overall, a promising debut author who has a flair for storytelling, and this book, while not perfect, made for some entertaining reading. Looking forward to future works by Rogerson.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Margaret K. McElderry Books, via Edelweiss.