The Raven’s Heart

Written by Jesse Blackadder
Review by Caroline Wilson

The year is 1561, and Mary, Queen of Scots, has finally returned from France to claim her throne in Scotland. The Blackadder family has been eagerly awaiting her return, hoping for favor in their quest to regain their stolen family castle and lands from the powerful and murderous Hume clan.

Alison Blackadder, who has been disguised as a boy since childhood, joins Mary’s court as a lady-in-waiting in an attempt to champion her family’s cause. Enlisted as a spy for the queen, she must learn to discern friend from foe and guard her heart against those who would seek to manipulate her for their own gain.

Overall, The Raven’s Heart is a well-written story. However, the pacing often plods along, leaving the reader to shift through pages of filler to get to the important aspects of the plot. The first 100 pages would have been quite dull were it not for the impressive rendering of the setting.

Characterization is another weakness. As the story is written in first person, from Alison’s perspective, characters are often one-dimensional. There are almost too many of them in the story, making sympathetic portrayal impossible. Many of them would make a brief appearance before being duly dispatched. However, both Alison and Queen Mary are compelling characters; equally soft and hard, they both struggle to find their places in a male-driven world.

Despite its shortcomings, The Raven’s Heart will appeal to die-hard lovers of Scottish history and to those who love atmospheric settings, but readers who desire quick pacing and thrilling plotting may want to give it a miss.