Synopsis: In Thanopolis Bloodmages are controlled, undead warriors guard them and the King commands them. When Rovan accidentally reveals herself to be of magical blood she is reluctantly forced into the life of a Bloodmage. But something dark exists in Thanopolis, from the sickness outside the borders to the corruption in the Kingdom. Desperate and unable to escape, Rovan reluctantly relies on Lydea, the princess, and Ivrilos, her undead guardian – untrustworthy though they may be, Rovan finds herself falling for them nonetheless.
CW/TW (taken from GR):Death (lots, major and minor characters)/Parent death, on page and off/Sibling death by suicide (off page)/Fratricide/Violence (lots)/Blood (lots)/Gore (not excessive, but there’s, uh, a scene or two for sure)/Mild body horror/Mild substance addiction (alcohol)/Enforced gender roles/Forced marriage and pregnancy (including rape, but the latter is off page, in the past, and not involving main characters)/Threat of rape/abuse of the main character
Rep: Poly/Pansexuality/asexuality/non-binary/(f/f, m/f/f)/lesbian
In The Ravenous Dark, by A.M. Strickland is a morbidly humorous and compelling fantasy with great characters and a twisty storyline that will keep you engrossed from start to finish. Strickland has a strong prose, that maintains a good pace throughout the book. The descriptions are vivid and captivating and the prose flows well making the story an easy read. The narrative works well with the story, especially with Rovan’s constant plots to do things she shouldn’t as we get to see her thoughts and feelings, plans and schemes and then watch it all go spectacularly awry!
The story is fun, twisty and compelling with equal measures of darkness, humour and romance. From the start the world is set up as quite brutal, with Rovan witnessing her dad’s murder at the hands of bloodmages and their guardians. This brutal and vicious tone sticks throughout the book, and it makes for some brilliant fight/action scenes throughout the story. The magic fits the tone with blood magic and death magic being the two primary types to exist, Rovan comes from a rich line of bloodmages, and death magic is reserved for those who do not have the gift of blood magic. The magic is really interesting, from it’s presentation on the skin and the way inheritance works to the use of it. Rovan is incredibly strong and has a lot of raw power but she isn’t ‘the chosen one’ she is reckless and has little control over her magic, she does have her own unique skills that set her apart but it avoids the trope of ‘suddenly being an expert’ and it makes Rovan much easier to connect with,
The actual plot, following Rovan trying to work out the secrets behind the palace, the guardians and her own magic is intriguing. The reveals are shocking and the build up has good suspense and tension. The story definitely manages to surprise you and takes shocking and dark turns that keep you on your toes and keeps you engaged. I can’t say too much because spoilers, but the plot is unique, fun and yet horrifying all at once. The world is more or less queernormative, with the palace being the only place that is a little stricter – allowing it as long as heirs are produced. The relationships are well built, and the natural flow works very well. I do think some of the connections were a little rushed, I prefer more build up though – however, by the end the relationships were well established and worked well. I do think Rovan was a little too easily lead at times, romantically, but her impulsive nature was thoroughly amusing and kept me on my toes.
The characters were compelling because they were messy and flawed and very human despite their magic (or undead nature). From their plans to relationships, everything fit well with the characters personalities and flaws. My absolute favourite character had to be Japha though, hands down they were the one I was always super excited to see on the page. Rovan was a great mc, Ivrilos and Lydea were also brilliant major characters, and I loved the dynamic between them, the wit, humour and sarcasm. However, Japha still rose to the top for me!
Overall, this is a good read, fun and humorous with excellent dark twists and a unique take on magic. The characters were messy and flawed, and the relationships were interesting and dynamic. However, I do feel some areas could have been more developed (a little less chaotic) and I would have liked if some of the relationships had a bit more build up.
I do recommend this to people who love romance focused fantasy, or lovers of fantasy like Gideon The Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir.
*I recieved an eARC from #Netgalley #Hodder&Stoughton in exchange for an honest review – thank you!*