Archie Greene and the Raven’s Spell

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for the earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels [here] and [here].

Archie Greene and the Raven’s Spell was written by D.D. Everest and first published in 2017. It is a fantasy novel about a young boy who is determined to save the magical world from corruption. The novel forms the final instalment of a trilogy and is preceded by Archie Greene and the Magician’s Secret (2015) and Archie Greene and the Alchemist’s Curse (2016).

When the Greaders manage to steal a book from the Royal Society of Magic, Archie and his friends know that something bad will soon follow. Their worst fears are realised when it is revealed that the book is the most dangerous of all Terrible Tomes – The Book of Night. Sealed within the book is the Dark Flame of Pandemonium and three powerful darchemists known as the Pale Writers. If they are released, they will slowly corrupt all the good magic in the world until nothing is left but darkness.

The only thing that stands a chance of stopping them is the Opus Magnus – the original magic spell – but this text has been lost for centuries. The only person believed to know its whereabouts is Fabian Grey and he has been missing since the Great Fire of London. Yet Archie has reason to believe that he is alive. When notes signed “FG” begin to appear in the alchemy lab, Archie realises that perhaps Grey has always been closer than he thought.

Yet Archie may not have long to figure things out. There could well be a traitor working at Mothballs. Animals have been disappearing from the mythical menagerie and the Flame of Pharos has been growing weaker. If Archie can’t figure out who is responsible soon, the Museum could be sabotaged from the inside and all magic will fall into the hands of the Greaders…

Before I begin, let be noted that I do consider this to be the best of the Archie Greene books. As you might recall, I haven’t been a huge fan of this trilogy on the whole. While Everest has some interesting ideas, the story was just too bogged down with irrelevant detail and often felt more than a little familiar.

More on that shortly.

Archie Greene and the Raven’s Spell is far from perfect, but it did resolve one of the biggest problems that I had with the previous two novels. Despite the fact that this book is significantly longer, the story really does flow well. The other plot lines often got lost between the finer details of Everest’s world. There were so many concepts introduced (enough to fill a thirteen page glossary at the back of the book), that more time seemed to be spent explaining how everything functioned than actually progressing the story.

There is mercifully less of that in this book. I never got bored reading this one as the plot was focused and exciting enough to keep my attention throughout. While a couple of new concepts were introduced, the story didn’t really waste a lot of time detailing them. Everest clearly knew that he had to wrap up all loose ends in this volume and kept his sight firmly on the task at hand.

However, it should also be noted that the new concepts that were focused on in the story made it feel more like Harry Potter than ever. You can’t read Archie Greene without thinking of Rowling’s work. While I don’t consider it to be a complete rip-off, it does contain dark wizards who are recognisable by the “Black Dragon” – a tattoo that appears on their hands once they have sworn loyalty. The Pale Writers are also basically dementors. While they are slightly more sentient than Rowling’s creations, they are still wraith-like beings that have the ability to suck positive emotions from a person. Unfortunately, these glaring similarities really did hamper my enjoyment of the book. They distracted me from appreciating Everest’s story for its own merits.

The plotting of the novel beyond this is also of variable quality. There are several twists in this book and one of the one that impressed me the most was the identity of Fabian Grey. I didn’t see this coming at all yet, in hindsight, the clues have actually been there since at least the second novel. This is precisely how a twist should be written. They’re always more effective when the author hides clues so subtly that you don’t pick up on them the first time around. This was at least a better reveal than the identities of the bad guys. While previous novels made an attempt to conceal who the villains were, this time it was glaringly obvious from the word go.

Worse still was the plot twist concerning the fate of Archie’s sister. I’m not going to spoil this here but I’ll just say that I actually forgot that he even had a sister. Archie has mentioned his missing father a couple of times over the course of the books but the sister has never seemed much of a concern for him. This twist is foreshadowed by a very clumsy comment half-way through the story, but the moment that Archie is made aware of it is even more artless. Where she has been for the past ten years is never explained. Archie is merely told her identity and he accepts it without a moment’s thought. I think I personally would have had some questions if I was him. Like why no one bothered to tell me this sooner. Or why they felt it necessary to let me believe that she was dead. Or why she couldn’t remember being Archie’s sister (she was old enough to remember their parents, after all).

Finally, let’s talk about characters. Archie Greene isn’t a great protagonist. Really, there is not much to him beyond his impressive destiny. As I mentioned in my previous review, he is massively overpowered. In this book, he gains yet another superpower (and previously unmentioned firemark) which allows him to train in divination. This is a power that is only held by one other character in the series and that fellow is a fully trained wizard. Yet Archie, who has only been at Mothballs for a matter of months, masters it without much trouble at all.

As Archie’s forked fate leaves him with the destiny to save the magical world, it naturally means that story is all about him. I personally found it disappointing to see how the rest of the Alchemist Club got shafted. I’m not sure why they were even in the stories at all – they never really contributed anything. The only one who helped to save the day was Bramble, and she did this entirely off page. Poor Thistle, Rupert and Arabella were forced to stand around and watch as Archie single-handedly defeated the bad guys.

Everest also does a lot of telling, rather than showing. The personalities of the likes of Rusp and Quiggley really should have been established in the previous instalments. At the beginning of this novel, we are told that both of them have it in for Archie but this just isn’t something that we’ve seen on page. Rusp was previously grumpy with everyone, and Quiggley was mentioned by name a couple of times but was otherwise a non-entity. It was almost like Everest had a last minute idea about how he wanted to use them, and therefore was forced to retcon in development for them at the eleventh hour.

Anyway, I think I’ve rambled for long enough. While Archie Greene and the Raven’s Spell was the most enjoyable book in this trilogy, it was still full of problems. The plot felt a bit too familiar, some of the twists were badly integrated and there was a disappointing lack of development for the supporting cast. Younger fans of Harry Potter might get a kick of out if, but there are way better middle grade fantasies out there.

Archie Greene and the Raven’s Spell can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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