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lip lit: what the raven saw

I not only shamelessly judge books by their covers, but by their titles, too. I’m forever drawn to quirky titles, and What the Raven Saw by Samantha-Ellen Bound, was one of the most intriguing titles I’d read in a while. Add to that the beautiful cover artwork, and I couldn’t wait to rip open the book and devour the contents, only to find myself again reminded of why we shouldn’t judge books by their covers, or, by their titles.

I had very mixed feelings about this book the whole way through. The beginning was a little slow for my liking, and it took me a while to warm to Bound’s protagonist, a rather well-spoken raven who lives in a church belltower overlooking a graveyard. But once I warmed to the raven, I became more engaged in the story, and, while there are some beautiful messages and imagery in this book, I felt it was let down by the plot.

The raven reveals to the reader that all birds can speak, but that they choose not to speak to humans because they don’t want them to know this secret. The raven is a loner with no friends, until a boy ghost begs the raven to help him help his sister come to terms with the boy’s death. While I found the plot a little slow and hard to get into, there is absolutely no fault to Bound’s beautiful characterisation, particularly of the non-human characters in the book: the raven, a squeaky weather hen, a scarecrow, a pigeon and the ghosts haunting the graveyard. These characters jump off the page and made me want to strike up a conversation with the next magpie I see sitting on my balcony railing, watching me as I read my book in the sun, and yell after him that I know he can speak when he flies away without engaging in conversation.

Bound isn’t afraid to tackle some tough themes in her book, and, through the eyes of the raven, the reader receives a very different perspective on life, death, what it means to be living, and what it means to love. Can you love someone so different to yourself? What does it mean to help someone else, expecting nothing in return? Themes of love, life, and death are commonly found in fiction, but it is the non-human characters in this book who shed more light on the matter, together with the human characters in the book who are willing to accept what these different creatures have to teach them.

My favourite part of this book is the friendship/relationship, or whatever you want to call it, between the raven and the weather hen. I love the raven’s insistence that every squeak and every spin of the weather hen is her way of communicating with him, although I did find it a little hard to believe that such an intelligent raven would not be aware that the weather hen is simply an object; a piece of metal like the treasures the raven collects. But, looking back, I think the raven does know. It is simply the sort of friendship which suits the raven best; someone who will listen to him without expecting him to listen back.

What the Raven Saw is a book about making the most of the lot you’ve been given in life, and not being afraid to stand for what you believe in. Bound has chosen a feathery protagonist who takes a little warming to, but it is the raven’s different perspectives which really give this book its character. While I thought the plot itself could have been a little stronger, and the beginning less drawn-out, Bound’s writing is seamlessly beautiful and original, and her characters are ones which will stay with you for a long, long time.

What the Raven Saw is published by Woolshed Press.

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  1. Pingback: lip lit: fish change direction in cold weather | lip magazine

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