I was very fortunate to be sent a copy of The Night Raven, book 1 in the Crow Investigations series by Sarah Painter in exchange for an honest review. The Night Raven is an urban fantasy mystery set in contemporary London and is currently available from The Book Depository and Amazon.
This is my first time giving an in-depth review on my blog so bear with me as I find my feet!
Meet Lydia Crow…
Lydia has always known she has no power, especially next to her infamous and more-than-slightly dodgy family. Which is why she carved her own life as a private investigator far away from London.
When a professional snafu forces her home, the head of the family calls in a favour, and Lydia finds herself investigating the disappearance of her cousin, Maddie.
Soon, Lydia is neck-deep in problems: her new flatmate is a homicidal ghost, the intriguing, but forbidden, DCI Fleet is acting in a distinctly unprofessional manner, and tensions between the old magical families are rising.
The Crows used to rule the roost and rumours claim they are still the strongest.
The Silvers have a facility for lying and they run the finest law firm in London.
The Pearl family were costermongers and everybody knows that a Pearlie can sell feathers to a bird.
The Fox family… Well. The less said about the Fox family the better.
For seventy-five years, a truce between the four families has held strong, but could the disappearance of Maddie Crow be the thing to break it?
The Night Raven is the first book in Crow Investigations, an exciting new paranormal mystery series from bestselling author of magical fiction, Sarah Painter.
Before I read the book I wrote down what my first thoughts were based on the synopsis and what initially caught my eye. Not only is this useful to see how the book measures up in comparison to the synopsis, but it also gives you guys an idea of my expectations and thought process when I’m selecting books to read.
As a big fan of urban fantasy I’ve read quite a broad range of books in the genre, however, most are set in the US. To find one set in the UK is rare, and as London is my birthplace I have a fond spot for books set there so immediately that grabbed my attention. The next thing was the idea of a character with no power; yeah, it’s a little cliche and has been done before. For me, though there’s also a flip side to that – don’t fix what’s broken. I’m a sucker for characters who are “unique”, who appear to have no powers and oh look suddenly they develop something unique or are secretly really powerful. I don’t mind that cliche because I LOVE the world-building and the story that gets to that point.
Ok, so “after a snafu” screams underdog to me as does everything else we know about Lydia. She seems to be an independent character who’s purposely moved away from family, made her own life and is now being dragged back to it. But she’s still making sure it’s on her own terms and from the sounds of it she’s going to try very hard to keep it as professional as possible. To her it’s about work not some ancient hocus pocus.
I’m a little bit put off by the way DCI Fleet is mentioned; this could go really badly and end up a terrible romance. However, the next few lines about the four families are what really saves the synopsis for me and is what I’m living for with this book. It has the potential to be a novel filled with fantastic and imaginative world-building, and I cannot wait to learn more about the four families and their history!
I quickly fell in love with the protagonist Lydia; she’s a likeable and recognisable character who has fallen down on her luck through no fault of her own. The situation she is in is one of those that would be laughable if it wasn’t so horribly horrendous and life-ruining. You know the type I’m talking about. As someone who doesn’t quite fit in with her own family, I also found it really easy to relate to Lydia’s reluctance to return home and then having to rely on family – not to mention her desire to prove herself to them. It wasn’t that she ran away from them, it was that she set out and made a life for herself; a career that had nothing to do with the family business. Yet here she is right back where she started.
Lydia quickly realises though that while some things are as if she never left, there are a lot of things that have changed. Her best friend is a mum now, her life so completely different to Lydia’s that it causes our protagonist even more conflicting feelings and her father’s illness means that he barely recognises her any more. These very human, very normal feelings are thrown into a world where nothing is what it seems and nothing is normal.
As the synopsis says London is ruled by four families each with their own magical speciality, but unlike the rest of the Crows Lydia was born without any. As with any good mystery, there’s more to the story and as she begins to look into the disappearance of her cousin Lydia realises that the London she left behind has changed more than she knew. Through her eyes as an investigator, and as a friend, the reader unravels the secrets of London and the four families and how it all ties into the disappears of Maddie Crow.
As for the mystery of Maddie Crow; well, you’ll just need to read the book and find that out for yourself 😉 What I will say is that I had some ideas as to where the mystery of Maddie Crow would end up, and it went nowhere even close to what I had in mind. It was a really interesting twist that left me begging Sarah for information for the next book. I want, no scratch that – I need more!
It isn’t just the main story or the rich magical world-building that makes this book so good. It’s filled with a fantastic cast of secondary characters which like Lydia are very realistic and relatable. For me a good Urban Fantasy novel mixes reality in with the fantasy, bringing every day into a world of wonder where anything is possible. They were all really easy to grow fond of, even the love interest Detective who as I said I was a bit sceptical about at first. Thankfully this wasn’t a case of a bad romance novel, and the role of romance in this novel is a part of life rather than a focal point of the plot. Romantic scenes are fade to black, and the relationship between Lydia and Detective Fleet has much more to it than a quick fling.
Other books in the Crow Investigations series
Other Books by Sarah Painter
Over to you
If you’re a fan of Urban Fantasy or just looking for something new to read than The Night Raven is a great book to pick up.
What do you think of The Night Raven?
What caught your attention about the book?
Have you added it to your TBR list?
If you’ve got any questions about the book or the review let me know in the comments!
Hopefully my review has wet your appetite and given you just enough to make you want to grab your own copy! It’s available in e-book and paperback format, and it’s also available on Scribd the world’s original online reading subscription service. You can sign up using my referral code and get 2 months of free reading right now!
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