Flushed with success at returning Blackbird (formerly the Realm of the Rat) to its citizenry, Bran and his followers have returned to the University. Despite his formerly promiscuous ways, Bran knows his relationship with Scathe is permanent; despite his devotion, Scathe cannot stay in the city, with the ever-increasing pressure of the minds of so many people. Mill the Hill feels less useful in a place where intellect is valued more highly that brawn, the Twins are bored with no hunting in sight, and Dismas is feeling restive, while meticulous Swart knew returning to the University without his sister Brangwyn would anger his professor father. So when Tenar, a substantial woman from a medieval village far away, pleads for assistance, the group are eager to help.
A tower in the country, armed with technology and science, is loosing bolts of thunder on a peaceful village, striking people unconscious. When they wake, some are missing, some are dead, and then more lightening comes.
The quest not only brings together two townships, and topples an unrighteous reign of tyrants, it brings together Swart and the rest of his family – the mother who left him when he was a child, and the twin brother she took with him. Long unhappy, tormented by his father, abandoned by his sister (who, understandably, chose to stay in Blackbird rather than be ‘rescued’ and returned to the University), the reunion brings Swart no peace. But the quest does bring him, and Mill, love.
In this second piece of the Raven trilogy I was less absorbed by the story than by the evolution of the characters – all the relationships, from Twins Thel and Flae, through Scathe and Bran, to Swart and his family, are beautifully complex and intricately wrought. This is not to say that the plot itself is uninteresting or in any way lacking, but it is driven by the people within it. Greenwood’s writing is deeply satisfying and somehow comforting, and though I tried to resist I had to turn immediately to the concluding instalment. - Alex