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Ravensoul: Legends of the Raven Book 4
James Barclay
Pyr, 432 pages

Ravensoul
James Barclay
James Barclay was born in 1965. He was brought up in Felixstowe, Suffolk, and attended college in Sheffield before training to be an actor. He was an extra in the film, Onegin, but his screen appearance ended up on the cutting room floor. He works in London as an advertising and promotions manager for an investment house.

James Barclay Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Shadowheart
SF Site Review: Once Walked with Gods
SF Site Review: Nightchild
SF Site Interview: James Barclay
SF Site Interview: James Barclay
SF Site Review: Noonshade
SF Site Excerpt: Noonshade

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dominic Cilli

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James Barclay has created two series of books thus far, The Chronicles of the Raven and The Legends of the Raven, but essentially "The Raven" books are one long series of overlapping stand-alone adventures. Of course, there is some carry-over between books, but in a pinch you can probably pick any one of them up and not be lost in the storyline at all. In order to be certain I gave James Barclay's Ravensoul its fair shake and to be meticulous in my review, I went back and read all of the "The Raven" novels to get a sense of where I was in the story and to see how the author has evolved over time. The journey through Barclay's work was a bumpy one. The writing gravitated from the mundane to the extraordinary. Overall, there was nothing wrong with the writing. It was just uneven and, at times, it was just missing that extra spark that would have elevated the books above the level of standard gamer fiction.

I found the strongest entry in the entire series was the previous novel, Demonstorm. When I finished that book I was fairly impressed by what I had read and felt the series, while having its ups and downs, had closed on a strong note. Ravensoul, from its very start felt tacked on. The story of Balaia had come to a strong close in Demonstorm and this fourth novel is simply one more adventure for the Raven. Basically, the story in Ravensoul resembles a couple of the previous books in the series. We have a seemingly undefeatable enemy who invades Balaia from another dimension. This time they are called the Garonin and, instead of using the traditional dragons or demons, Barclay gives us a more modernized race. They invade with giant machines that harvest mana and they do not care if they destroy everything in their path and only the Raven can save Balaia. If it sounds familiar, that's because it is. Since the threat posed by the Garonin will affect many dimensions, the souls of the former dead of Balaia, most notable all the old Raven characters and most of the key players from past novels start to come back in different bodies.

Quite frankly, the thought of bringing all the old characters back to life in different bodies reeks of desperation or a publisher goading an author into just one more entry because I didn't miss most of these characters all that much to begin with. Even if you're a big Barclay fan, this novel seems like it should have been put on the backburner for several years to at least give readers some time to miss them. After all, Demonstorm and Ravensoul were both published in 2011. As it stands, I can't recommend Ravensoul to any but the most devoted Barclay fans. James Barclay isn't a bad author at all, but The Raven is a bit played out and simplistic and best suited for younger gamer-fiction fans. For grizzled veterans of fantasy who have read the best this genre has to offer, you won't find much in these books that you haven's seen done better elsewhere. It is time for Mr. Barclay to move on and only then will we know if he can ascend to that next level. He has the potential, but only time will tell if it becomes fully realized.

Copyright © 2012 Dominic Cilli

When asked to write a third-person tag line for his reviews, Dominic Cilli farmed the work out to an actual 3rd person, his friend Neal, who in turn turned it over to a second person who then asked his third cousin to help out and this person whom Dom doesn't even know then wrote in 8th person Omniscient mode "Dom's breadth of knowledge in literature runs the gamut and is certainly not bounded by the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre. One thing I can say with certainty is that of all the people I don't know who've ever recommended books to read, Dom's recommendations are the best.


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