BOOK REVIEW: ‘Ravens and Writing Desks’ by Chris Meekings
DISCLAIMER: The reviewer knows the author personally and both have worked with the same publisher.
I need to start this review saying that Chris Meekings is my brother. Not my actual brother by blood, but we were both part of last year’s New Bizarro Author Series, and for that reason, he (and seven other amazing people) is my brother. And you are probably worried now that my review will be biased. I mean, if this review is positive, than we may have a problem, don’t we?
Well, bad news for you: This review is extremely positive.
I loved this book. It’s everything I myself strive for when I sit down to write. But I’m a sucker for metafiction, and I’ll always gravitate towards works like this.
Lucy Alice Zara Gayle (yep, drink it all in) is a young girl living with her mom. She has good grades, it’s very inteligent and, partially for those reasons, is bullied by the popular girls and ignored by the popular guys.
Sounds familiar, right?
Until the day when Lucy meets the wizard Bechet in an alley, and he sends her off in a quest, joined by a guiding spell on her head called Conscience.
She leaves her home in England and walks through the door to another dimension to live magical adventures alongside fantastic creatures like a faun (!), a tinsman(!!) and an old woman living in a house made of sweets (!!!).
Okay, you guys are wondering: How can something that sounds like a pastiche/parody/rip-off be any good?
The answer is: Because this book is completely self-aware. It knows it’s a pastiche, and it uses that knowledge to make a point. A point about reality.
Lucy finds herself trap between three realities. She’s unable to decide which one is the real one, and this is tearing (‘tears and tears, tears and tears, but which is which’) her apart.
Chris explores the concept of reality wonderfully here. Lucy even wonders if she is a character in some book, and debates Conscience extensively about it. Metaphysics and philosophy in general are common topics to be found here (with references to Wittgenstein by name).
He also muses about free will. The wizard Bechet says he can’t tell Lucy everything about her quest, because it’s been prophesied, and she needs to choose her own path. But he also insists that she needs to choose the right path, the path of the prophecy. So what good does being given a choice does her, besides making her confused and more alienated from her quest?
This is not a children’s book. Things get really dark, really fast, so I wouldn’t recommend reading this to your children at bedtime.
My nitpicking with this book is its language and pacing. I would love to see some plot points being more well developed (even though this is already a big book), and some sentences didn’t sounded right to me. Maybe that’s because English is my second language, so I would need a second opinion on that one.
This book is amazing, and if you’re looking for some childhood nostalgia (references to The Wizard of Oz, The Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland and many more) mixed with science fiction and examinations on the nature of reality, go ahead and buy it!