Friday, 2 November 2012

Book Review: The Raven's Seal by Andrei Baltakmens

The Raven's Seal
by Andrei Baltakmens
Top Five Books
5 Stars


A Murder. A Fall from Grace.

A Mysterious Symbol That Could Be the Key to One Man’s Salvation…

When the body of Thaddeus Grainger's rival turns up stabbed to death in an alley just hours after their inconclusive duel, only one suspect comes to mind. Charged with murder, Grainger's fate is sealed before his trial even begins.

A young gentleman of means but of meaningless pursuits, Grainger is cast into the notorious Bellstrom Gaol, where he must quickly learn to survive in the filthy, ramshackle prison. The "Bells"--where debtors, gaolers, whores, thieves, and murderers all mix freely and where every privilege comes at a price--will be the young man's home for the rest of his life unless he can prove his innocence.

Despite his downfall, his friends--the journalist William Quillby and Cassie Redruth, the poor young girl who owes Grainger a debt of gratitude--refuse to abandon him. But before they can win his freedom, they must contend with forces both inside and outside the prison determined to keep Grainger behind bars and, at the same time, decode the meaning behind the crude wax seal that inspires terror in those who know its portent.

Set against the urban backdrop of late 18th-century England, The Raven's Seal unravels a tale of corruption, betrayal, murder, and—ultimately—redemption and love


It's been a while since I've read a Historical novel that I've enjoyed so much. The prose is lyrical, descriptive and so evocative that you are easily drawn to the fictional town of Airenchester and the characters inhabiting it. From the genteel salons of the gentry to the squalor of the tenements in The Steps, every location is brought vividly to life.

Grainger is unjustly imprisoned on a murder charge and sequestered in Bellstrom Gaol and it was interesting to note how his incarceration differed from those of the 'lower orders'. Those who couldn't pay the gaoler's 'garnish' are fettered in chains and sent to the most desolate parts of the prison.

The thrust of the book is Grainger trying to find out who set him up and why. Rumours abound of a certain society called the Black Claw, which seems to have claws in every villainous pursuit in the town. But who is behind it all? Who is the mastermind? That is something you'll have to read the book to find out, I don't want to spoil it.

Some of the characters are larger than life, but never quite turn into caricatures. The names are wonderful - Mrs. Scourish for a housekeeper and Quillby for a writer, were just some of the great touches of humour within the book. It's a book to be experienced, not just read.

The author loves words and language, you can tell just by the way he's written this book. It's a book you want to savour like a good meal. Despite its old-fashioned language, it is easily read and fast-paced. Nothing I say in a review can do it justice. It's wonderful, a joy to read and I can't recommend it highly enough.

Reviewed by Annette Gisby

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