Plot summary: Morgan L. Busse is currently writing her newest steampunk series, titled Skyworld: In a world covered in a deadly mist that forces humanity to live in the sky, Cass escapes the purges and survives by her wits until she stumbles onto the airship Daedalus and finds a job as a diver. As a diver, she explores the ruined cities within the mist, searching for treasure and family heirlooms for the rich. But everything changes when a young man hires her to find the very thing that will turn their world upside down: a way to eradicate the mist.
Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Plot & Storyline Quality (4 points)
The final installment in Busse’s Ravenwood Saga does not disappoint. Cry of the Raven’s well-constructed storyline, deep and relatable characters, and strong underlying message of freedom and light in Jesus cumulate to make an enjoyable read that points you to Him. The opening chapters of Cry of the Raven pick up where the previous book left off – Selene and Damien are both growing closer to the Light and letting Him use their gifts for good. However, their faith and endurance are being tested by worries about how they and the other Houses will fight against the invading Dominia Empire. At a meeting of The Great Houses where everyone discusses their plans for defense, Selene reveals the secrets of House Ravenwood – her dreamwalking gift can and has been used to kill others. In return, Selene finds out that the ancestry of each House – including hers – harbored darker and more complex secrets than she already discovered. Understandably, she is angry, hurt, and reluctant to trust anyone. Damien feels like something inside is keeping his gift of manipulating water to protect others from being all it could be, but isn’t sure what it is. He still struggles with flashbacks of painful events in his past whenever he uses it, and cannot seem to overcome the physical toll it takes on his body. When he is pushed to the breaking point, he must remember Who the Light is and make an important life choice. Will the Great Houses choose to do what is right and break up with the sins of their forefathers? To answer this question, read the book!:) It goes almost without saying that the plot and storyline in this novel are excellent. Busse does an great job of picking up where the last story left off, keeping track of a large number of characters, and utilizing varied settings without being overly wordy or choppy. Thus, she demonstrates above average continuity and fictional world-building skills. Busse also pens an intriguing plot that holds the reader’s attention from beginning to end and even inspires excitement about the conclusion. Thus, Busse earns a perfect score in this section for the reasons listed above.
Character Development (4 points)
Next, Busse’s character development is the strongest point of this book. She has correctly utilized the space given in the series format to deepen already strong characters by exploring their spiritual lives. Selene displays extremely realistic struggles and emotional responses. Moreover, the illustration painted by her arc of how Christians can only be strong through surrendering to Jesus’ strength is very meaningful. Damien continues to be a refreshingly atypical male lead who actually has more to offer to the story than having chiseled features. His spiritual and emotional battles are very relatable and his personality is clearly established. (spoiler) Comparatively, Busse’s use of childhood flashbacks with her antagonist helps this character avoid the pitfall of being a villian just because. Finally, her minor and secondary characters are very well-developed and have clear roles in the story. In short, there is not enough good to say here, and for that reason Busse earns a perfect score in character development.
Creativity & Originality (1.5 points)
Finally, Busse really shines in the areas of creativity and originality. This being so, she earns a full point in originality for crafting intelligent and relatable characters who have realistic emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical traits. Additionally, Busse earns a half of an x-factor point in creativity for her strong plot and storyline. Because of this, we here at BOR feel that Busse’s Ravenwood Saga would make an excellent multi-season Christian fantasy series. Step aside Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, there’s a new story in town!
Author’s Note: We were provided with an ARC of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)
Morgan L. Busse is back with the much awaited sequel to Mark of the Raven, and we are happy to say that this novel is even better. This second installment in Busse’s The Ravenwood Saga is better than the first because Busse takes the time to develop her characters further without sacrificing the strength of her storyline. Selene, whom we last saw on the run with Lord Damien, is still trying to escape the darkness of her family’s past. Her hasty marriage to Damien is very discomforting in many ways, and recurring nightmares of past dreamscapes make sleep nearly impossible. Damien believes that marrying Selene was a good decision, but struggles to reach her emotionally because of the many walls she has put up over the years. After arriving at her new home with Damien, Selene feels more out of place than ever. However, she is touched by Damien’s memories of his family, and intrigued by his relationship with the Light. Will she discover what it is to be a part of a real family? To answer this, read the book!:) Busse’s latest novel holds the attention from cover to cover because of the careful attention given to continuity and plot details. The storyline is well-crafted and contains only a few minor errors. Furthermore, her world-building skills are above average and her characters drive the plot. Additionally, her exceptional portrayal of the spiritual world adds much to the novel. The only error to note here is that sometimes it is hard to keep track of Busse’s many minor characters. However, as they will likely be further developed in the next novel, this error is minor. Therefore, Busse earns an above average score in this section.
Character Development (3.5 points)
Busse’s character development skills have grown, a fact that is evidenced through her use of this second novel to deepen the characters. She could have filled this sequel with lots of action scenes and little substance, but she didn’t – earning a well done from us at BOR. Selene is the best character for several reasons. These include her realistic spiritual journey and her relatable emotions. She is also very unique for a female protagonist because she has a clearly defined personality. Damien is a great character because his realistic emotional reactions to past and current events break all typical molds for male leads. Additionally, Selene and Damien have one of the most well developed fictional relationships I have seen in some time. Furthermore, Amara and her mother are greatly improved in this novel, and the other minor characters also play important roles. The only error to note here is that there are a few too many scenes that describe the character’s physical appearance as seen by their spouse. However, as Selene and Damien are married, this is not bad – mainly unnecessary. Because there is only one error, Busse earns an almost perfect score in character development – the strongest area of her novel.
Creativity & Originality (1.5 points)
Finally, Busse earns a full point in creativity for crafting an above average fantasy world, and half an x-factor point in originality for crafting unique characters who defy Christian gender stereotypes for men and women. Because of this, we here at BOR believe that the Ravenwood Saga would make a great Christian TV series. The first novel has enough content to fill the first season, the second novel could be the second season, and so on. The screenwriter would have to make very few changes because they could use key chapters to build episodes. We hope that someday soon Christian filmmakers will recognize the movie/series potential in Christian novels. Great job Ms. Busse! Your latest novel was a breath of fresh air!
Every year, many Christian books are released, and writers of the same show off their creative talents. Across the many genres, novels are judged based on plot continuity and storytelling skills, character development, and whether or not a novel correctly addresses an issue that relates to current issues in American Christian culture. These novels are separated into roughly three groups of authors and their respective works of art: the exceptional, the potentially great, and those chosen by the votes of our readers. At Box Office Revolution, we believe it is our prerogative to annually recognize the entertainment creators who have the ability to bring revolution to Christian entertainment.
Author’s note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Plot & Storyline Quality (3 points)
Morgan L. Busse has crafted an exciting and engaging storyline in this new novel that is character-driven and has much potential to be a fantasy TV series. Mark of the Raventells the intersecting stories of Selene and Damien. Selene is the heir to House Ravenwood, a fact that comes with more bad than good. Selene has inherited her mother’s ability to dream walk – to take the form of a raven (hence their family title) and enter the dreams of others at night, discover their fears, and manipulate these fears for their advantage. At first Selene is open to this ability because she feels it is her duty as the heir to uphold her family’s traditions. However, her willingness fades when she learns the ultimate goal of many dream walking missions is to kill the subject. Torn between duty and disgust at the darker side of her gift, Selene feels helpless to change her fate. Damien has experienced multiple tragedies in his young life. The death of his father and younger brother shook him internally, and he has never been the same since. Damien’s family has been gifted with the ability to control water – to create water walls that protect their village from invading naval forces. When Damien is called upon to use his gift for the first time on a mass scale, he is thrilled with the victory caused by his gift…until he sees the people he has unintentionally killed by protecting his village. When a meeting of the Great Houses draws Damien and Selene onto the same ground, Selene is intrigued by Damien’s devotion to the Light, as it is so different from her family’s commitment to the Dark Lady. Will Selene be forced to kill to uphold her family heritage? Will Damien trust that the Light will help him make wise choices when using his gift? To answer these questions, read the book!:) Busse’s obvious strength is her storylines, a fact that is reflected in this novel. I could find little wrong with this plot, and aside from a few editing errors and a hint of choppiness here and there, this is a nearly perfect storyline that puts many fantasy novels to shame.
Character Development (3 points)
In comparison, the characters in this novel are as strong as the plot. Selene is a multi-dimensional character who is well-developed and realistic. Her spiritual journey is relatable and downright poignant. In fact, Busse’s creatively subtle insertion of the Gospel message into this novel is the hallmark of the story. Damien is an equally good character, which is surprising when one considers his abrupt insertion into the plot. My only complaint regarding the characters are that he and Selene needed to be written in first person. The secondary characters are well-thought-out and intriguing, and are left unfinished for future novels in the series. Yet, a little more effort was needed here. Thankfully, the good outweighs the minor bad here.:)
Creativity & Originality (1 point)
Lastly, Busse is also strong in the area of creativity and originality. She earns a full point in creativity for crafting a fantasy world and above average characters. Mark of the Raven, and hopefully the future novels in the saga, will make an excellent TV series. The plot is quite good as is; no alteration is needed by a screenwriter. They should instead spend their time on building on the character foundation Busse has laid, and honing the dialogue to attract both young, semi-young, and older audiences. To conclude, good job Ms. Busse. It is nice to see that there are still fantasy authors out there who care about quality Christian content! I look forward to reading and reviewing your next Ravenwood novel.