While I will happily read fantasy or sci-fi novels with strong romance arcs, I very rarely read romantic fantasy or paranormal romance, so Margaret Rogerson’s An Enchantment of Ravens was a bit of a departure for me. Rogerson’s debut novel tells the story of Isobel, a painter in the town of Whimsy, which borders on the realm of Faerie. The Fair Folk in this setting are incapable of making arts and crafts themselves, so those produced by humans are hugely valuable. Isobel is in great demand among the Fair Folk for her skills as a painter, but when one of her paintings accidentally offends a faerie lord, she finds herself dragged into their realm and caught up in their politics. When she and one of the Fair Folk fall in love, that love might save them both…or doom them.
If Rogerson ever gets tired of being a novelist, she could certainly embark on a career as a nature writer, because the descriptions in this book are evocative. The faerie world of Enchantment has four courts, one for each of the seasons, and the main characters spend time in three of the four. Because of the vivid way Rogerson describes them, each of these courts truly feels different. And while they’re mostly lush and beautiful, Rogerson also excels at describing their darker aspects. When Isobel and Rook face a monster that’s an amalgamation of corpses, the descriptions of its putrid flesh and grasping bones add to the terror of the scene.
Any story centering on the Fair Folk is going to stand or fall on how it portrays them, and Rogerson succeeds here, too. There’s a contradiction at the heart of most depictions of the Fair Folk: they’re capricious but also bound by rigid rules, such as being unable to touch iron. Rogerson captures that very well in her novel. Many of the fey Isobel meets are mercurial, but the setting’s whole economy runs on the absolute inability of the Fair Folk to produce any artisanal work for themselves. Rogerson also returns to an old-school portrayal of the Fair Folk as being fundamentally inhuman beneath their glamours. Obviously, readers will disagree on which interpretations of classical fantasy beings they prefer, but Rogerson hit all the right notes for me.
There are a couple of missteps, primarily in how the titular enchantment is treated. Since it’s an enchantment with multiple “levels,” one would expect those steps to gradually escalate over the course of the story, reaching their greatest extremity at the final confrontation with the antagonist. Instead, it goes from zero to sixty partway through the story and doesn’t play much of a role after that. On the whole, though, this was a thoroughly enjoyable book. I was actually disappointed to see that it’s a standalone! I was hoping to read more about this world and these characters, and I’d be happy if Rogerson chooses to return to them someday.