“Legend foretells that the White Tower, then England, will fall.”
As an Arthurian legend fan, I’m always up for any retelling concerning the legendary King of the Britons. So you can imagine I was very excited to read “The Ravenmaster’s Revenge”, Book 1 of “The Return of King Arthur” series by the wonderful author, Jacob Sannox. The fact that this novel was was selected as a semi-finalist in the 2019 SPFBO (Self Published Fantasy Blog Off) competition, indicated it would likely be a great read. Although, honestly, the book was not what I expected, it was indeed an excellent read!
My fault, I did not take a look at the book length on Amazon. This was (for me) rather short book, and I would have loved a bit more time to delve into the transfixing world that Sannox has created. Nonetheless, the brevity made for a quick and entertaining romp, back and forth between ancient settings, and modern day ones. For the bulk of the narrative, the reader will find themselves in modern day England. This is the land that, according to legend, Arthur is a sort of immortal guardian of, as the “Once and Future King”. Sannox picks up this concept, and makes his Arthur a weary but devoted man who is tasked with protecting his beloved land, throughout the ages, down to the present day.
At his side is his mentor, the omnipotent Merlin, who is the eponymous Ravenmaster of the book’s title. Merlin, I must say, was my favourite character of the book. He has been somewhat of a puppet-master, manipulating world events, with seemingly noble intentions. Sannox cleverly ties Merlin’s modern-day job as Ravenmaster of the Tower of London to the fact that he orchestrates the destiny of the land, and includes the Legend of the Tower Ravens to illustrate this: “…if the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it.”
However, while he manages to safeguard England successfully for centuries, not all of Merlin’s machinations turn out well. Merlin is consistently forced to correct errors he has made in influencing world history. As is canon, Arthur becomes the tool Merlin uses to do this. And in Sannox’s version of Arthur, Arthur’s immortality is explained, and we see the fabled king fight or be engaged in affecting some pivotal historical events. Some of these critical junctures include the First World War, the 17th century English Civil War, and the Napoleonic War.
As a history buff, I found this book absolutely fascinating. I also found it was an interesting choice by Sannox to depict Arthur the way he did. Surrounded by some of his celebrated knights of the Round Table, who in fealty have accompanied Arthur, Arthur perseveres in his tasks, though what he truly desires is respite from his burdens. Sannox has given his Arthur a sort of Captain America-esque type arch. Sannox has written Arthur as a man who is living out of his time, but whose fate, and overwhelming sense of duty and obligation, forces him to continue his mission. And continue it he does, even though in many ways he cannot entirely relate to the land and people that he protects anymore. It makes Sannox’s Arthur, a man lionized in the annals of history and of particular significance to the British, very human and relatable, and I thought this was very well-done.
The heart of the plot is a classic good versus evil tale, with Merlin’s apprentice, Branok, as the villain. Merlin, Arthur, and his redoubtable knights are locked in an eternal game of wits against Branok, who tries to maneuver history for his own adverse purposes. The book provides plenty of action, with thrilling battle and fight scenes, including peaks back in time, like such epic confrontations as Arthur’s venerated “last” battle at Camlann versus Modred.
I completely adored Sannox’s vivid writing, in terms of how he describes England, a place I have always longed to visit. Sannox captivated me with his expository prose. I truly felt I was strolling or driving through today’s downtown, bustling London, or the quaint urban countryside. The conversations between especially Arthur, Merlin, and the knights, were engaging, and sprinkled with some good humour. As noted, Sannox does an amazing job with Arthur and Merlin, to make them main characters the reader can identify with and root for. Once again, though I would have preferred a longer book, the pacing was exceptional. With the plot always being driven forward in exhilarating fashion, voracious readers might knock this book off in one day’s setting.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I have already purchased the sequel: “Agravain’s Escape”, and am very much looking forward to diving into that one! Five stars for “The Ravenmaster’s Revenge”!