As the last book I requested from Wednesday Books, I can happily say that Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove is one of the best I’ve read from the imprint. Mehrotra takes medieval India, a culture that I haven’t been introduced to in fantasy books, YA or otherwise, and crafts an interesting world with plenty of lore, magic, monsters, food, politics, and tons more.
They also adjusted the age range on Amazon to 14-18. which is a small but awesome step. The book has a few mature themes involving violence and gore, but overall I’m impressed with Mehrotra and her willingness to keep everything in the book age appropriate for the teen reading experience. That all said, I’m willingly reviewing this one with no issues between me and the book
Bookish Quick Facts:
- Title: Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove
- Series: N/A
- Author: Rati Mehrotra
- Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, Oct 18, 2022
- Length: 352 pages
- Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ For fans of YA fantasy
Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon:
In Rati Mehrotra’s YA fantasy novel Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove, a young guardswoman struggles with her unwitting role as a major pawn in the deadly games between two kingdoms in a monster-infested alternate medieval India.
Bound to the queen of Chandela by a forbidden soul bond that saved her when she was a child, Katyani has never fallen short of what’s expected of her―becoming the best guardswoman the Garuda has ever seen and an advisor to the crown prince when he ascends to the throne. But when the latest assassination attempt against the royals leaves them with a faceless body and no leads to the perpetrator, Katyani is unwillingly shipped off to guard the Chandela princes in Acharya Mahavir’s esteemed monastic school in Nandovana, a forest where monsters have roamed unchecked for generations.
Katyani wants nothing more than to return to her duties, especially when the Acharya starts asking questions about her past. The only upside of her stay are her run-ins with Daksh, the Acharya’s son, who can’t stop going on about the rules and whose gaze makes her feel like he can see into her soul. But when Katyani and the princes are hurriedly summoned back to Chandela before their training is complete, tragedy strikes and Katyani is torn from the only life she has ever known. Alone and betrayed in a land infested with monsters, Katyani must find the answers to her past so she can save what she loves and forge her own destiny.
Bonds can be broken, but debts must be repaid.
Starting with the plot today: This book kept me guessing. I was frequently surprised by the darker twists and turns it took to keep the plot moving, something I don’t see as much in YA books these days. This wasn’t a happy story. It took a lot of maneuvering and bloodshed to get from point A to point B and at no point was I bored, confused, trying to skim, or otherwise unengaged while reading.
The Characters: Let’s go here next because it’s YA and everyone wants to know about the characters. Katyani is actually one I can relate to, because while she is super competent at her job, she has like absolutely zero social or diplomatic skills. She did develop these as she went, as well as her general social maturity level. It was funny at times and other times detracted from the overall story, but it took very little time for me to be rooting for her as a character.
About the princes, the less said the better. The banter was fun and bountiful. There were quite a few side characters that played big roles, I don’t feel like any character space was wasted but there are too many to mention.
Daksh… ha ha Daksh. He is another super competent character that had the social skills of a rock, and I respected how strongly tied he was to his morals and rules. I actually wanted to smack Katyani a few times for not respecting his beliefs at all, although it kind of became apparent that the teasing was the only way she could figure out to make him a little more human at times. He is just great, really great, where are the men like this in real life?
Let’s just say that I shipped the little romance (blessedly appropriate, they actually cared for each other and only kissed, like twice).
Next the worldbuilding: for a standalone YA book, I am all about the world building here. Mehrotra even wrote a fairly personal index in the back about the various aspects of Indian culture and mythology she brought in, which was lovely to read. From geography to monsters to food, politics, clothing, music, weapons, and more, even ethics and moral codes, this one is packed full of world building and I’m all for it
Last but not least, the magic: Magic had two forms here, the natural spiritual force which could be turned into magic, and a form that could be conjured and considered stolen. I liked how thoroughly these were brought into the story and used in various forms throughout, whether in the form of battle magic or healing meditation.
The monsters and ghosts tied into the magic in some ways too (some heartbreaking ways for sure) and I think it’s worth reading to find out how. I loved how connected to ancestry and rites the culture is.
So let’s wrap this up by tying it all together: you get a YA fantasy set in an alternate medieval India, packed full of plotting, magic, intrigue, culture, worldbuilding, and just tons more. The characters are ones that I personally enjoyed which went a long way towards my overall enjoyment, since usually I can’t be bothered to focus on YA characters. The main themes involve the changing face of home, the various forms of monsters, adapting to other’s cultures, and learning to find your own way in the world.
Thanks for tuning in, up next will be my review of Foundryside coming later this week!