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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle by George Hagen

I bought this for Beadboy2, and he loved it so much I got intrigued.  Gabriel is a seventh grader with missing parents and a mysterious legacy, who soon learns of the significance of ravens both to his family and the world at large. The obvious comparison is to Harry Potter, but that's fairly superficial; this novel is its own story, based in part on Nordic myths and more grounded in the real world (specifically, Brooklyn).  Hagen develops a rather fascinating avian culture -- ravens use riddles to evaluate the world, owls love puns, and so on -- and ties it to a dangerous magical object that must be kept from those who would use it (shades of LOTR, here).  The literate plot is engaging and moves quickly, so much so that I was disappointed when the book ended.  Good thing there's a sequel coming later this year!

The characters, too, are a step above the ones usually found in these sorts of novels.  We are introduced to certain stock characters like the bully, the clueless adult, and the untrustworthy companion, but they don't remain two-dimensional for long.  Hagen gives his young readers credit for understanding that the world isn't always black and white, and the story is better for it.

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