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The Raven’s Shadow by Elspeth Cooper

The Raven’s Shadow by Elspeth Cooper
Book Name: The Raven’s Shadow
Author: Elspeth Cooper
Publisher(s): Gollancz
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / eBook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: August 15, 2013

The desert of Gimrael is aflame with violence, and in the far north an ancient hatred is about to spill over into the renewal of a war that a thousand years ago, forged an Empire. This time, it may shatter one.

Wrestling with his failing grip on the power of the Song, and still trying to come to terms with the horrifying events he witnessed in El Maqqam, Gair returns to the mainland with only one thing on his mind: vengeance. It may cost him his life, but when everything that he had to live for is being stripped away from him, that may be a fair price to pay.

Old friends and old foes converge in a battle of wills to stem the tide of the Nimrothi clans as they charge south to reclaim the lands lost in the Founding Wars. If they succeed, the rest of the Empire may be their next target. And with the Wild Hunt at their head, the over-stretched Imperial Army may not be enough to stop them.

In my review of Trinity Rising, the second book in The Wild Hunt series, I said that, “It is everything that is great about epic fantasy and, if I’m being honest, everything that is wrong with the genre too.” For all the book’s strengths, and there were many, I was frustrated that not a lot actually happened except the introduction of a vast number of new characters and the maneuvering of them around a map.

Therefore, when I started The Raven’s Shadow, I was slightly apprehensive that I was going to be faced with the same problem again, as character after character reentered the stage and I tried to remember who was who. However, after I was reacquainted with everyone, and settled comfortably back in the world of the Wild Hunt, Cooper took me on a furious ride, dispelling any reservation or lingering frustration with every page I turned. If you love classic epic fantasy, this is the book, and the series, for you. Good battles evil with the fate of the world at stake, and heroes sacrifice all as they face death with sword in hand.


Gair, the knight in training who was cast out of his order due to his mystical powers and branded a witch, is back and his story forms the spine of the series. He’s still reeling from the death of his lover and his mentor as he travels north to join some of his order on the frontier of the Empire. Matters aren’t helped by his dwindling control of his powers, resulting in Gair becoming a threat to both friend and foe alike.

Our other main protagonist, Teia, isn’t having an easy time either. She’s leading her band of refugees south through the snow-trapped mountains while heavily pregnant so she can warn the Empire of the dangers they face from her old tribe. She struggles with the responsibilities of leadership as she battles the elements and the evil spirits that lie in wait for her on her journey.

There are many other point-of-view characters in the book but Cooper converges them all in the same spot quickly so they provide different perspectives on the same major event. It’s a great way of turning up the tension and really driving home the motivations and the stakes for both sides of the war, while ensuring all the major players are fully formed and fleshed out characters. As much as I loved Songs Of The Earth, and enjoyed Trinity Rising, The Raven’s Shadow shows a vastly improved writer at work.

More importantly, Cooper finishes the book in such a way that ties up the events in a truly epic and earth-shattering manner while leaving the reader desperate to know what happens next. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you write a perfect book in a multi-part series.

Ravens ShadowCooper’s Wild Hunt series, in many ways, is the antithesis of the whole Grimdark movement that is the fashion of the moment, and all the more refreshing for it. She shows that you can have conflicted, troubled and complex heroes without making them morally ambiguous, and that a great story can still explore the eternal battle between good and evil without resorting to plunging everyone into a world of grey.

You can tell Cooper is having the time of her life writing the series, and the sheer joy she puts on each page is infectious for the reader. She constantly turns the excitement up notch after notch, barely giving her characters, or her readers, time to catch our collective breaths. Just when we think things can’t get any worse for our heroes, they most certainly do.

If you’re a fan of Cooper’s already, you have to read this book now and be prepared to fall in even more in love with her work. If you haven’t tried any of the Wild Hunt series, stop whatever you are doing and go out and buy Songs Of The Earth right now. This series is as good as it gets.



  1. Avatar Brian Latham says:

    Loved the first two instalments, but am really annoyed that there is currently no plans to release an audiobook version. Being severely dyslexic this is really the only way I can enjoy books. When a publisher starts a series of a book in the audio format they really should keep that format for all the books in the series. It is frustrating when you really get into a story and can’t finish it because people like Gollancz decide to stop releasing them in the audiobook format.

  2. I must clarify something here: Gollancz haven’t decided to stop releasing audiobooks of my work; there’s just no confirmed release date for when this one will come out. A fine distinction, true, but one that must be acknowledged.

    What must also be acknowledged is the commercial reality that book publishing does not happen in a vacuum. Every book has to justify its position in the catalogue, and if the print edition isn’t pulling its weight, it doesn’t make commercial sense to commit to studio time, editing time, the fees of the voice actor to do the reading, until they’re sure there’ll be a return on it.

  3. Avatar Billy Dyson says:

    I have to also add my disappointment at the lack of the audiobook. If a series is started in a format there really should be some obligation to finish it. Due to eyesight problems my only real option is audio versions and while I really enjoyed the first two books I would never have started them in the first place had I known the future of the audio versions was in doubt. Now I am stuck midway through a story I may never know the end of. I Am also unsure as to why print sales are used as a metric for interest in an audio version. People who buy the print version are very unlikely to also buy the audiobook, it’s a different auduence entirely. This kind of practice is only going to hurt future audiobook sales as from now on I wont be buying any of a series until that series is complete in audio form.

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