I had the absolute privilege of being able to read Carrie D Miller’s debut novel, The White Raven, before its official release. Luckily for everyone reading this, you now have the chance to read it as well, since today marks the day when the book goes live for purchase. But you may be asking yourself: Is The White Raven worth reading?
Before I get too far into the review, I want to state clearly that I was given The White Raven for free in exchange for a review. Normally I opt to purchase an ebook of the novels I am reviewing to support authors, though this was not really possible for this situation! Despite it being free of charge, rest assured that my review is my honest opinion - I would do myself, you, or the author the disservice of skewing my thoughts.
Now, let’s get going.
The White Raven is a modern-day fantasy, magical realism novel. It is told from the first-person perspective of Aven Dovenelle, a witch who has been cursed to live a seemingly endless number of lifetimes. Aven is now living her thirteenth life, nearly reaching the one thousand year mark. In her current lifetime, Aven has found a more accepting climate for those practicing witchcraft in the infamous town of Salem. She is even opening a shop where she will sell trinkets and homemade goods that are sometimes more than they appear.
What Aven does not realize is that something from one of her former lives is still holding a grudge. It is looking for revenge and will do whatever it can to get it.
I enjoyed reading The White Raven. It boasts a strong female lead, a unique take on modern fantasy and the curse itself, and a very intimate and realistic connection to witchcraft.
The main star of the show is Aven. Since the story is told from her point of view - for the most part - we get a bunch of insights into her thoughts and her past lives. To be fair, I actually didn’t like Aven for the first few chapters. She came across as angry and short-tempered, but this quickly developed into more of strong will and independence, rather than a short fuse (which she admits to having, herself). As we learn about the terrible things that she has been through and how she has suffered, it becomes more understandable that she has become hardened. As Aven explains many times, this is the first lifetime where she feels happy and safe. Nearly a thousand years of living in fear, being persecuted and killed will take its toll on anyone, even a witch as incredibly powerful as Aven.
And the incredible power that Aven possesses is extremely important in conveying one of the strongest messages in the sotry. A common theme I found within The White Raven was that, no matter how powerful Aven is, her actions have consequences. And usually the worst of these consequences are a direct result of Aven’s temper, when her fury gets the best of her. Whether it be reprimanding a thief, cursing someone who hates her, or merely displaying her grandiose power and wealth, Aven is often the instigator of her own misfortune. You don’t want bad things to happen for her, but her faults help make Aven, someone strong enough to influence Nature itself, more human and relatable.
We grow to love the other characters as well. Without delving into too much spoling detail, the other characters - primarily Aven’s friends - act realistically and are usually a fun, sarcastic addition to the story. Even the namesake of the story, the white raven, has its own personality and was one of my favourite characters.
There was one part of the novel that I wish was a bit different, though. The story almost feels like two stories in one. On the one hand, we are introduced to the Spirit of Morris Stiles as a hateful Spirit looking for revenge. He shows up in the first act of the book, then all but disappears until the very end. In between we follow Aven, Jo, and Sylvia trying to figure out why Aven is cursed and how to fix it. I think it might have been preferable to either focus wholly on one story or the other, for this first book, or have Morris show up or grow every now and then throughout the story, since both arcs could have stood on their own right.
That being said, The White Raven is a strong debut for Miller. Aven is almost like a force of Nature herself, a witch that is awe-inspiring in her abilities, yet relatable through her mistakes and tragedies. Yet she is cursed to live and die, over and over. She has been persecuted to no end, and even now, in the modern era, she is not safe.
Is The White Raven worth reading?
Absolutely. If you are a fan of magical realism, modern fantasy, real life witchcraft, a splash of romance, and a strong female protagonist, be sure to treat your imagination to Miller’s debut novel.
Click on the link below to get your copy of The White Raven, available in both eBook and paperback!