Audiobook Review: Conspiracy of Ravens by Lila Bowen
Narrator: Robin Miles
Series: The Shadow #2
Also by this author: Wake of Vultures
Published by Hachette Audio, Orbit on October 11th 2016
Length: 11 hours 16 minutes
Format: ARC, Audiobook
Also in this series: Wake of Vultures
Monsters, magic and the supernatural combine in this sequel to Wake of Vultures, in which a young woman must defeat the evil hiding beneath the surface.
Nettie Lonesome made a leap -- not knowing what she'd become. But now the destiny of the Shadow is calling.
A powerful alchemist is leaving a trail of dead across the prairie. And the Shadow must face the ultimate challenge: side with her friends and the badge on her chest or take off alone on the dangerous mission pulling her inexorably toward the fight of her life.
When it comes to monsters and men, the world isn't black and white. What good are two wings and a gun when your enemy can command a conspiracy of ravens?
Conspiracy of Ravens continues the exciting journey begun in Wake of Vultures as Nettie Lonesome discovers that she, and the world, are more than what they seem.
DISCLAIMER: I normally write spoiler free reviews. In this case I really wanted to talk about some of the diversity features of Conspiracy of Ravens. There may be spoilers in regard to that aspect of the book.
Last year, Wake of Vultures was an unexpected hit for me. I just loved the western vibe, I loved the protagonist. As a bonus, it also featured the girl dressed as boy trope. The protagonist for this series is gender fluid, she is physically female, and in the beginning of the first book, while preferring masculine tasks and roles, was still identifying female. The second book, she has had more time to mature, gain experience and is now identifying as a male stuck in a female body.
Unfortunately, Conspiracy of Ravens just did not work as well. I felt the over all pace of the story was slower. In the first book, I loved getting to know and understand Nettie/Rhett, learning about the magic and creatures. I loved reading about Nettie’s fight for survival. I never once felt like the book was slow. And the ending of the first book! It was exciting, and promised so much more story to come.
That is part of the reason I was so surprised to struggle to engage as much with the second one. The first quarter, or maybe even third of the book, I honestly fought to find anything interesting happening. There was a good amount of recap. There was a good amount of walking (with a donkey). And I have to say, the next largest component was Rhett’s (because Nettie has fully transitioned to a male identity), personality. Which unfortunately I found less fun and more whiney in this one.
Now, gender identity is a huge part of who Rhett is and his life. The problem for me I think is that I almost felt like that conflict was too big to serve as a subplot. I feel like the gender identity struggle would be better represented in a book that was dedicated to the character and their internal (and external) struggles surrounding that. I feel like that could make a very engaging, thought provoking and emotional read. Maybe that is a fault with me, but I almost felt like I would prefer more focus on this part of the character, or less. The level it was at almost made it feel more like it was just there, but not enough to do it justice. I mean, I get that this is who Rhett is and of course it will be a major component, but pairing that within the other plot, I just never felt as emotionally connected to the character as I wanted to be or felt like I should be to really understand and appreciate this inner conflict.
Again, it may work better for others. I know it sounds strange to say I want either more or less focus on it, but that is my honest reaction. I debated including that in my review because this is a sensitive issue, and I don’t want people to think I am being insensitive by admitting it just didn’t work as well for me as I would hope. I often found myself somewhat frustrated by the internal struggle with identity and just wished the character could be more accepting of who they were inside and out and get on with the other aspects of the story. I totally get this is so much easier said than done. I think a stronger focus on the conflict may have let me identify with the character better or a lighter focus would have allowed me to focus more on the plot.
So, when it comes down to it the book started very slow for me. I also had issues connecting with the protagonist, which surprised me as I did not have that issue in Wake of Vultures. I could see enough merit in this book that I an appreciate others may still enjoy it. But for me? Ultimately, I think I am likely done with the series unless I hear rave reviews for book 3 to convince me to read on.
Audiobook Note: Robin Miles is a great narrator. I enjoyed her performance in The Fifth Season and found she did as well here. I did struggle a bit with Nettie/Rhett at times, but I believe it was truly the book and not the narration.