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Melanie Karsak does it again! Highland Raven is a delightful mix of historical and fantasy that pulls inspiration from Shakespeare's Macbeth. The story centers on Lady Macbeth, before she ever took that name and is instead Gruoch MacAlpin the daughter of a royal bloodline and at the heart of magic from the Celtic gods.
Karsak has made her way onto my favorites list with her The Harvesting series, and are among my favorite audiobooks because of her care at picking amazing narrators who bring her stories to life. She doesn't disappoint with Highland Raven. I will admit to being somewhat hesitant with this one since it's a little different from her other novels, but that worry was pretty much pointless because I really think she knocked it out of the park with Highland Raven. We are given a chance to look at Grouch as she grows up and begins to learn that her fate has been set before her by the old gods, and that she is not only bound as a relation to the King but also by the old magics that still linger in the land. We get a surprising amount of religious strife as Christianity starts it's hold on the area and as those who still believe in the Celtic gods struggle to hold onto that heritage in the face of outright disapproval. Then there is the magic itself...I completely adored all the chapters in which Gruoch spent with the coven, as that is when we really start to see the Bard's work pulled in and weaved into the story-line in bits and pieces.
There was so much I wasn't expecting as far as the characters go. Grouch (Lady Macbeth) is portrayed as a power hungry woman who is completely lost to her husband's ambition in the original Shakespearean play, she pulls the strings behind his rise and we occasionally see the three fates at important moments lingering. In Highland Raven we see her as a woman who is placed with tremendous power and finds love not with Macbeth, but with Banquo. She is strong willed, curious, and glad to have this higher purpose, though the power behind her isn't one that allows for weakness or mercy. Then there is Sid...who is burdened with a gift of her own, but becomes a fast friend to Grouch and is completely delightful.
The narration, as a mentioned before, is perfection. Lesley Parkin does an excellent job with the reading and really makes each character stand out with a variety of different accents. She does read a bit on the slow side but she does have a pretty steady pace and a fantastic reading voice.
There is so much I wish I could talk about when it some to HR, but this review has gone on long enough already without adding in even more rambling about character development and fantastic scene setting. Karsak is definitely an author to keep an eye out for, and I really love her range. I'll be keeping up with this series for sure and I can't wait to see how Lady Macbeth handles the new revelation at the end of this book.
I received a copy of this in exchange for an honest review.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Bambi: Nooooooooooo! It can't be over!
[Frantically checking Audible to see if the next book is out]
No! Gah! ::flails::
It's been a while since I had that reaction to the end of a book, but I was utterly captivated by Highland Raven. It was just so... so... magical, for lack of a better word. And I can't say enough good things about the narrator, Lesley Parkin. She really did a fabulous job with the accents and tenor of the story - she brought all the characters and the setting to life with a lyrical cadence.
So this story is about Shakespeare's Lady MacBeth... with some paranormal twists. Now it has been many years since I read Shakespeare in school, so I really can't much about the correlation between this story and Shakespeare. And I could really care less the storylines meshed or not - I was thoroughly entertained by Melanie Karsak's tale.
Pledged to the Morrigan at her birth by her vengeance-driven father, our heroine is known by many names: Gruoch, Corbie, Boudica, Cerridwen, Lady MacBeth. She is of the royal line of MacAlpin, with ties to the thrones of Scotland and Ireland. Cerridwen's family follows the old Gods at a time when Christianity is sweeping the land, so the story is full of Celtic and Pictish rituals and mythology. But Karsak weaves even more magic into the story with fae interludes, prophecy, wizardry and travel between realms. I liked Cerridwen as our warrior woman heroine. I loved that she was capable and curious and emotional. At this point, I'm not really seeing Cerridwen as Lady MacBeth... she is a young girl who is stretching her wings (literally) to learn family traditions and cope with her fate as best she can.
I am not usually a fan of the love triangle... but this one has me quite intrigued. I was very excited by Cerridwen's visions of a raven-haired man with eyes full of love. I thought I had an epic love story on my hands. But then along comes Banquo, who had a special connection to Boudica as Prasutagus. We see a lot of soul magic happening and it appears that Cerridwen and Banquo have been reconnecting time and again through each life. So, not remembering much MacBeth at the time, I was confused as to whose team I should be on! I think this allowed me to really feel the same conflict that Cerridwen was feeling when she had the soul-deep connection on one hand, but was still curious about the raven-haired man from her visions on the other hand.
This story ended on a cliffhanger and I absolutely cannot wait to see what's next in store for Cerridwen and MacBeth. I only wish these stories were longer because I was not ready for this one to end. While I am sure reading the story in print is great, I highly encourage you to give it a shot in audio because the narrator is fantastic.
I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the author in exchange for an honest review.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful