By Harper L. Carnes
Print ISBN: 979-8-9862274-0-5
Ebook ISBN: 979-8-9862274-1-2
(Available September 13, 2022; cover forthcoming)
Seventeen-year-old Seth’s haunted past shapes his brooding present and feeds the nightmares that still trouble him almost nightly. But when he meets Gabriel, a beautiful man several years his senior, things start looking up. Seth finally believes he can trust, love, and be happy. Until strangeness begins to follow him, like the ravens that suddenly seem to shadow his every move and begin showing very un-raven-like behaviors. When Gabriel catches Seth in a lie and walks away, Seth’s happiness—and his reality—spiral down into a dark aether that brings changes too bizarre to be anything but a nightmare from which he can’t awaken. If he is to save himself and Gabriel, Seth will have to face the truth and surrender to his biggest fear.
This book is excellent from the start. Its prologue sets the tone for everything that happens to Seth throughout the story and offers a reasonable explanation for what might otherwise seem to be the usual teen angst taken up a few notches. Anyone who survives the sort of trauma he experiences in those first few pages would be forgiven their idiosyncrasies. Seth’s world is, at first, surprisingly “normal” in flavor. Oddities appear slowly, grow in number and magnitude until they explode Seth’s life in a no-turning-back way, blowing me away right along with Seth and holding me enraptured right up to the very last word.
The author’s choice to show us that early trauma in Seth’s childhood not only informs the storyline and sets the stage; it made it easy for me to connect to Seth on a deep, emotional level. I was completely invested in his storyline early on, so that everything that happens to him after that just bonded me to him that much more. I wanted his denial to be truth. I wanted the oddities to be coincidences. I wanted Gabriel to stay, despite Seth’s lie. But of course, it’s watching a beloved character undergo tragedy and hardship that makes for a great story. The Raven Key has this in spades.
Carnes’s writing style is quite accessible, making it easy to forget you’re safe on your sofa, and truly get swept up in the story. Seth’s thoughts and actions felt authentic, as did dialogue between characters. Chapters flow easily one into the other, making it really hard to put the book down. While the main character is a teenager, which might make a reader think this is a YA story, I would suggest that this is not for YA audiences. The author includes a detailed list of trigger warnings in the back of the book, so I don’t feel like I’m spoiling anything to tell you here that there is some graphic—but not gratuitous—violence on the page, which is part and parcel of Seth’s story. There are also some very explicit love scenes, and other elements that make it far more suited to adult readers.
That said, I highly recommend this book, which is expected to be released September 13, 2022. The Raven Key is dark urban fantasy at its finest.