On the dawn of her courtship trials, Princess Lyana Aethionus knows she should be focused on winning her perfect mate, yet her thoughts wander to the open sky waiting at the edge of her floating kingdom. One final adventure calls. Upon fleeing the palace, the last thing she expects to find is a raven prince locked in a death match with a dragon.
Reviled son of a dead king, Rafe would do anything for his beloved half-brother, Prince Lysander Taetanus, including posing as him in the upcoming courtship trials. When a dragon interrupts their secret exchange, he orders his studious sibling to run. After suffering a fatal blow, Rafe is saved by a beautiful dove who possesses forbidden magic, just like him.
Unknown to the world above, on the foggy sea ten thousand feet below, a young king fights a forgotten war. He believes Lyana is the queen prophesied to save the world, and with the help of his favored spy, hidden deep in the highest ranks of the dove royal house, he will stop at nothing to have her.
I requested this book from Netgalley with a giddy hope that it would be what the cover promised it might be: an epic fantasy romance set in the skies. But honestly this book was just… perfectly okay. Lately, I’ve read some really unique and well-written fantasy books and unfortunately for this book, it’s struggling to compete. It’s not unlike a lot of other YA fantasy series you’ve probably read.
So, what’s the reason I put this book down with only a quarter left to finish?
The Raven and the Dove is a young adult fantasy story set in a unique world on isles in the sky! And in this fantasy world, there are people called Avians, who essentially are human despite the fact that they have wings. There are seven houses, each house shares the same type of wings. Although the people of the seven houses worship a different god, they all share the same belief that magic is a symbol of evil. Each year, these houses come together for an event known as the Courtship trials, where the royals of each court compete in a set of events that match them with their mate. There are four central characters and rotating POVs in this book:
➽ Lyana – Princess Lyana of the House of Peace, representing Aethios, god of the sun and the skies. Her people have Dove wings. She is about to compete in the Courtship trials to compete for her mate.
➽ Xander – Crown Prince Xander of the House of Whispers, representing Taetanus, god of death. His people have Raven wings. Xander has a disability and fears it will make him less of a man and of a Prince. But lives to serve the people of his House.
➽ Rafe – Bastard and half brother to Xander. He is loyal, quiet and subservient to Xander. Rafe is about to compete in the Courtship trials under the guise of his brother Xander, who has asked him to compete on his behalf.
➽ Cassi – Orphaned, loyal and closest friend to Princess Lyana. Has Owl wings. Is currently on a secret mission in order to save the future.
My biggest gripe with The Raven and The Dove was that it lacked a well-defined world. Which is largely because the reader is kept in the dark about so many things. I think my frustration with this story would’ve been alleviated if there was more focus on world building. Because this world is trying to be innovative and do something different, but it just didn’t work for me because of the lack of tactful exposition in the right places. The reader isn’t even told the name of the species in this book, there is one throwaway line referencing ‘the avians’ roughly halfway through this book. Which I think is somewhat ridiculous.
This book is also marketed as being perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo. Both of whom, I really like and factored into me requesting this book up. As of late, Sarah J. Maas is known for writing exceptionally smutty YA books with questionable euphemisms. Leigh Bardugo is exceptional at characterization and very subtle, sexy dialogue. Both of which, really appeal to me. Both of which, were also absent from this book. Which is perfectly fine, a book doesn’t need to have those aspects to be good. But, The Raven and the Dove is a lot more juvenile than what it’s being compared too and I don’t think that’s fair to it.
Aside from my gripes with the world, the characterization here was okay. Lyana is a main character people will easily like. She is bold, unafraid and slightly rebellious at times. Cassi’s arc is also interesting, but you don’t really know much about her secret mission, other than it appears altruistic. They also have a dynamic that reminded me of Safiya and Iseult from Susan Dennard’s Witchland series, whom I love. Rafe and Xander’s point of views were also easily palatable, just unmemorable personally.
Although the essence of the story is really lost of me. The plot is given continuous momentum, with frequent events like the Courtship trials (that are slightly glossed over…), a few battles with dragons (because dragons exist in this world too) that help this book move at a fast-pace. However there’s no tangible presence of a threat or antagonist in this story. I read ay least 70% of this book, and there’s only vague, ominous mentions of a fire god gaining strength. And so I really struggled to attain any satisfaction from this story. The magic system is relatively straightforward. However like so many other things this story is trying to tackle, the magic system goes without a solid explanation. You get bits and pieces of information here and there, and you have to piece those bits together like a puzzle.
Unfortunately, this book felt so… unnecessary. And boring. Although Kaitlyn Davis is a seasoned writer, with many published books to her name, I honestly struggled to see that here with the messy plot and world-building. I do hope this book finds its audience regardless.