Wolfsong was my favorite book of 2016. If you haven’t read it, you will be lost reading Ravensong (and there are spoilers in this review). And if you have read it, I highly recommend you re-read it. There is zero recap when Ravensong begins.
T.J. Klune is a wonderfully talented writer. His marvelous back catalog runs the gamut from comedy to horror, and he isn’t afraid to try new genres. Wolfsong (and the Green Creek series) was his first foray into shifters and wolves, and friends, it was brilliant. Tender, funny, heartbreaking and romantic, it left me with super high (probably unrealistic) expectations for Ravensong. Fortunately, Ravensong features familiar and supremely well-characterized principal and secondary characters, a compelling narrative, and the author’s absolute gift for finding comedic gold in the unlikeliest of places is much in evidence. I laughed out loud more than once, and I loved the dynamic of the platonic and romantic relationships within the Bennett pack. It’s also dark and dirty and tragic. Although Ravensong lays the groundwork for more excellent stories to come, there are too many villains and complicated intrigues, and none of them – or the central love story – get the time and attention they each deserve. The novel starts out slow and races to the finish line; Ravensong is good, but exhausting.
The series is centered around Ox – mate to Joe and tether to Gordo – and the Bennett pack. In Wolfsong, Ox grew up spending his afternoons working alongside Gordo, a father figure of sorts (his own father abandoned him and his mother at the start of the book), and spending his free time with the Bennett family. Joe loved Ox, and Ox loved Joe. Gordo, who was once the Bennett witch, didn’t like Ox’s involvement with the wolves. He reluctantly reunited with the pack when they returned to Green Creek out of love for Ox – and because a desperate Thomas begged him to.
As Wolfsong progressed, Richard Collins emerged as the packs enemy. When his family was massacred by the King clan (human hunters who tracked and killed wolves) Collins vowed revenge – on the Kings and the Bennetts, who he blamed for allowing it to happen. After he killed Thomas Bennett (the Alpha of all wolf Alphas), Joe, his brothers, and Gordo set out to hunt and kill him – splitting the pack. During the three years they spent on the road, Ox became an Alpha to the surviving Green Creek Bennett pack – and the humans he called friends; one of the central mysteries/themes of the series is just who and what Ox is.
Ravensong picks up one year later. The Bennett pack now has two Alphas – Joe and Ox – and is uniquely comprised of both humans and wolves. They defeated Richard Collins, but Robert Livingstone, Gordo’s father, has somehow escaped his magical prison, and is missing. It isn’t clear whether he was working with Collins, or if he’s even still alive.
While new threats to the Bennett pack are a significant element of Ravensong, its primary focus is on the complicated relationship between Gordo and Mark Bennett (Thomas’s brother). In Wolfsong, it was clear that Gordo has a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship to wolves, but we never understood why or the reasons for his estrangement from the pack and Mark – especially since it’s clear to everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) that he and Mark are meant to be together.
The narrative jumps around between four distinct time periods in Gordo’s life, and I loved the unique format in which the author deftly – smoothly – shuffles through the various significant time periods of Gordo’s life, using these brief snapshots and fragments to slowly piece together the bigger picture to reveal how he became the bitter and angry man he is at the start of the novel. The reader is fully invested in this complicated, frustrating, kind and wonderful man, and his journey is alternately heart-breaking and joyful. His magic divided his parents and isolated him from his contemporaries, leaving him lonely and confused about his place in the world, but it also gave him a pack and Mark, and provided a profound sense of joy and awe and wonderment. Gordo is broken when Ox comes into his life, but the arrival of Richard Collins and threat of more enemies arriving in Green Creek forces Gordo into a reckoning… and change. When Ravensong opens, Gordo is a broken man slowly emerging from a painful past. By the end of the novel, he’s finally discovering love and forgiveness and happiness and the joy of packpackpack.
Ravensong is dark and complicated and heavy, but it’s also full of light and love and laughs. Mr. Klune has a wonderful way with awkward, funny dialogue and with how he handles the various bonds and relationships between members of the Bennett pack. We feel their love for each other. Gordo’s friends are hilarious, awesome and loyal, his relationship with Ox is poignant and tender, and his love for Mark… Well, I loved these two damaged men finding and loving each other again – But. The author makes readers wait and wait and wait for them to sort themselves out, and when they do? It’s blink and you’ll miss it quick. I wish there was a bit less of the worldbuilding and evil villains, and a lot more love. Because Mark and Gordo together are fantastic. I felt cheated.
Although Gordo’s history and complex relationships propel the central narrative (and we see everything through his often skewed perspective), new and old enemies to the pack also emerge. These enemies, and their attempts to take down the pack, round out the novel. Eventually all of these disparate pieces come together – but the conclusion is more happy for now, than happily ever after. Someone or something is coming for the Bennett pack, but who, what, and why are still unclear.
Wolfsong’s overriding theme was hope in the face of adversity; Ravensong’s is forgiveness. Intense from start to finish, the author expertly lays the groundwork for what’s to come – introducing new and old enemies, and finally answers many of the questions that lingered after Wolfsong ended. Satisfying, though emotionally exhausting, Ravensong is an engaging and worthy addition to the Green Creek series.