Scathe is the Mouth of the Oracle – cursed, empathic, unable to touch another human without killing them, he survives on the offerings citizens of the Realm of the Rat bring in payment for a reading. Jocasta, the Oracle, blind and hidden, pricks leaves with Braille for Scathe to read.
Once the world was different, but the Three Days brought a rain of fire to the world. Before the Rat came, brigands threatened the town. He took control, and though his reign is far from benevolent, at least the people are safe from the terrors that lie outside the small city once known as Ballarat.
But there are rumours and prophesies of the Raven, an avenger who will come on rails of iron and overthrow the Rat. As the uneasy peace of the town fragments, Scathe learns about the abomination of his origin and why he is rightfully cursed. Doomed to be alone forever, he somehow becomes embroiled with the entourage of the Raven, and the life he thought he knew is rewoven into something miraculous.
This new trilogy about the Three Days (previously portrayed in The Broken Wheel, Feral and Cave Rats) is more tightly connected than the previous series. Bran the Raven, first met in Feral, has been sent from the now-toppled University [of Melbourne] to find the daughter of a Professor, stolen as a slave by the Rat. Her brother, the enigmatic Swart, accompanies Bran, along with massive Maori/Koori/Scot Mill the Hill, the thief Dismas, and warrior Twins Thel and Flae, so tightly interwoven that the tribe of Women whose camp they wandered into at the age of three gave them one name to share – Athelflaed.
As we have come to expect from Greenwood, The Rat and the Raven combined great story telling with elegant writing and the creation of some of the most interesting characters I’ve come across. Sexuality after the Three Days is more fluid, and different kinds of cultures have arisen in response to the needs of their communities. Throughout the Three Days universe, but particularly central to the Raven trilogy, is the FSF element of paranormal abilities emerging and strengthening in the aftermath of the disaster. Often written as a technique for evading otherwise impassable stumbling blocks, Greenwood’s characters are strengthened by, but not wholly reliant upon, their gifts. This is great writing. – Alex