It’s a well established fact that I am a huge fan of Karen Maitland and was delighted to have the opportunity to interview her recently. Of course, I devoured her latest novel, The Raven’s Head.
The timing of me reading this novel was interesting, as I was teaching Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven and having discussions with teenagers about the symbolism of the raven- madness, grief and depression were all mooted as possibilities; after all, the raven is a bird steeped in mythological ideas. The raven in this story is definitely more sinister, cunning and slightly creepy.
The story begins in 14th century France and the life of apprentice scribe Vincent, a cocky and lazy youth who quickly finds a blackmail attempt lands him in hugely hot water and fleeing across the Channel for his life. His tale becomes entwined with Gisa, a young girl who receives the unwanted attention from the local menacing alchemist and a little boy, Regulus, who ends up in the hands of some seriously dodgy monks. As with all of Maitland’s Dark Age novels, the supernatural is a key part of the narrative and one that sometimes provides the reader with some particularly gory imagery.
What I especially love about Karen Maitland’s writing is that it has this ability to completely draw me into a time and a place that is so strange to modern eyes, yet somehow very familiar. I found myself wanting to get home from work to read (not always easy in exam season and with a two year old!) and that my thoughts would frequently wander back to the characters. Little Regulus especially haunted me and at one point I was genuinely afraid for him. Funny how characters do that to us, isn’t it?
*Sent for review