This is a surprising book. Not because it is well written (it is) and not just because it has an engaging plot that keeps you reading and wishing for more but rather because it is such an unusual concept.
Or, rather, it successfully mashes together two well worn concepts and makes out of them something new which is very close to originality.
From the title and a brief read of the blurb my brain instantly tagged this as ‘urban fantasy’ or ‘fantasy’. There is talk of an Order of Mages and similar and the idea of ravens being linked to magic and spirituality. I therefore had expectations for something similar to Ilona Andrew’s writing with maybe some riffs from the Harry Dresden books in there for good measure. Tropey but fun. So, to be thrown into a cyberpunk style near future world that also happened to have magic in it was a surprise and a pleasant one at that. Of course on a second read of the blurb it became more obvious so maybe I should have read that more clearly in the first place.
The story follows two characters. Jackson is a orphan in the 2200’s who has grown up to be the CEO of his adopted father’s delivery company (that also dabbles in some illegal smuggling) in a world that is ravaged by nuclear war and the populace living in cities that are shielded from the radiation. He has a mysterious past, is haunted by shadows and visions of ravens, and is being treated by the Order of Mages for these uncontrolled outbursts of magic.
Our other character, Anna, was a physicist working at a Las Vegas based US Military base in the 21st century. How she comes to be in suspended animation in a box that Jackson is tasked to recover by the Coalition government from the radioactive wastes and why she has the ability to emit radioactive energy when stressed is what kicks us off on our rollercoaster of a plotline.
This is an engaging read with many fascinating characters and ideas expressed in a very easy to read prose. The plot progresses at a fast pace, while giving sufficient time to take in the details of the world building – a balance that is sometimes difficult to achieve.
Overall, an excellent novel that is well worth reading if you want something different to the usual tropes.
Website for I.A Ashcroft