Inverarity (inverarity) wrote,

Book Review: The Raven, The Elf, and Rachel, by L. Jagi Lamplighter

The second book in a delightfully ditzy Harry Potter derivative.

The Raven, The Elf, and Rachel

Dark Quest, LLC, 2014, 422 pages

Before coming to Roanoke Academy, Rachel Griffin had been an obedient girl – but it is hard to obey the rules when the world is in danger and no one will listen.

Now, she's eavesdropping on Wisecraft Agents and breaking a great many regulations. Because if the adults will not believe her, then it is up to Rachel and her friends – crazy, orphan-boy Sigfried the Dragonslayer and Nastasia, the Princess of Magical Australia – to stop the insidious Mortimer Egg from destroying the world.

But first, she must survive truth spells, fights with her brother, detention, Alchemy experiments, talking to elves, and conjuring class. Oh, and the Raven with blood-red eyes continues to watch her. It is said to be the omen of the Doom of Worlds. Will her attempts to save her world bring the Raven's wrath down upon her?

And as if that is not bad enough, someone has just turned the boy she likes into a sheep.

As much as I loved the first book in this series, The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin, it took me forever to get around to reading the second book. I confess some of the charm has worn off and all the rough edges and silliness was a little more distracting this time around.

Rachel Griffin is basically a Harry Potter AU, with Rachel in the Harry role. The series is also based on the author's home RPG campaign, and this is very evident by some of the crazy-silly things the playercharacters do, which make not a lot of sense narratively, but are totally the sorts of things PCs will do when they are running roughshod over the Gamemaster's plans.

In the World of the Wise, wizards live in a parallel society hidden from the Unwary (Muggles). This is not quite our world or Rowling's world, though: all churches have been replaced by temples to Greek gods. The countries aren't quite the same as ours. There's a mysterious raven who seemed to be a harbinger of doom in the first book, but now appears to be on Rachel's side. There's also an elf woman who shows up to deliver exposition and plot Macguffins.

Rachel is a 12-year-old girl with a 16-year-old boyfriend (it never really goes into squicky territory, but Rachel is certainly aware that she's dating above her age range), and her friends have to save the world

I'll give L. Jagi Lamplighter this: she is no worse than JK Rowling at writing angsty teen romance, and Rachel is a more believable girl than Harry is a believable boy, albeit one who is, as of this book, too young for hormones to have really started raging.

Along with the 12-year-old dating a 16-year-old, there were other little details that jarred me in what seemed to be a fairly PG-rated book. The violence gets graphic at times, there's quite a horrific situation in the climax involving mind control, and at one point, it's revealed that a secondary character was basically enslaved and raped over an extended period by one of the villains.

None of that really made this book more "adult" though — it still reads very much like a YA fantasy novel, and at times, one in need of editing. There were far too many characters, far too many exposition dumps about this world's history and historical characters and plots and conspiracies from the past, as well as flashbacks from the previous book which I could barely remember.

The wizardry is a mishmash of Harry Potterish wandlore and a homebrew RPG magic system. Characters have random (Player Character) powers, like perfect recall and a pet dragon.

The Raven, The Elf, and Rachel was entertaining but meandering, sometimes revealing itself too much as a novelization of the author's game sessions.

While Harry Potter advanced a year in each book, after two books, Rachel is still in her first few months at Roanoke Academy. I've already figured out what the big reveal is that I assume the series is leading to, but the author is certainly in no hurry to get there.

Charming, goofy, and rambling, I'm still in for the rest of the series, but at this rate, it will be a seven-book series just to get through Rachel's first year.

Also by L. Jagi Lamplighter: My review of The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin.

My complete list of book reviews.
Tags: books, fantasy, l. jagi lamplighter, reviews, young adult

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