'The Broken Raven,' book two in the Shadow Skye trilogy by Joseph Elliott, mainly follows the journeys of three characters.. Agatha and Jamie of the Clann-a-Tuath and Sigrid a girl hailing from a far away group they refer to as 'deamhan.'
After having barely escaped Norveg after a vicious war, Agatha and Jamie return with their clan to the Isle of Skye to find their enclave lost to the people of Raasay. Temporarily taking up with another clan they freed in the process, their welcome is unstable at best. The leader and other elders openly debating whether or not they should be allowed to continue staying, aided in a bid to recapture their home, or just pushed out to fend for themselves.
Deception leads to the escape of dangerous shadow creatures called sgàilean from their magical prison, leaving everyone in Skye at risk of death. As Agatha and Jamie take different paths in hopes of saving lives, the stakes are rising elsewhere.
Sigrid, a girl with a wildly independent streak and a seemingly eidetic memory who's sold off by her mother to the cruel king of their lands, finds herself in the neighboring court of King Edmund of Ingland. Witness to the intricacies of a deadly alliance as it's birthed, she agrees to try to stop what's coming.. the genocide of those residing in Skye.
Admittedly, I felt like this story started out really awkwardly. After reading for awhile, I understood it was the author's way of infusing the characters not only with their distinguishable personalities, but also defining the people they came from. He was establishing a complete culture from their traditions to their social structures to their languages.
Truth be told, I even adjusted to them all bit by bit, but some were more difficult than others. Created languages sometimes just mess with my immersion, but that's a personal thing and I can't take away from the author for using them where they work well to indicate education levels, ages, and in this case even a wonderfully neuro-diverse heroine.
As for the story itself, I'm a bit conflicted. I think there were things the author did really well, such as the management of multiple narrators and the visual construction of the region of the world where the people lived. I could see it all mapped out so clearly, even with the travel across the seas connecting their villages.. and mad dash across vast lands to the Isle of Skye.
The main characters are all likeable enough. I was kind of fond of Jamie and definitely had a grudging respect for Sigrid and Agatha. I even rather liked one of the villains, the king of Norveg.. though I know I shouldn't have, still.. I enjoyed the fact he was multi-dimensional in nature.
Overall, though a lot of little things occurred, it just didn't feel like the scope of the tale was that broad. I would have liked to see more development with Jamie and the Bo Riders.. one in particular. And I think resolutions were sometimes had with a proverbial flick of a wrist, despite the length of time they might be spread over.
Certainly worth a read just for the more unusual elements alone.
(More reviews like this at Betwixt The Sheets.)
(I received this title as an ARC. All opinions are mine and freely given.)