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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

The Raven's Eye Runaways by Claire Mabey

Getwin is a bookbinder, working from dusk till dawn with her mother at Raven's Eye Bookbindery. Lea, a scribe, lives in a castle where she and other girls are forced to write manuscripts until their fingers bleed. 

When Lea escapes, she is rescued by Getwin and her friend Buckle. Together they search for Getwin's mother, who has been taken by the regime. The three young friends and a one-eyed raven find themselves up against the rulers who restrict the gifts of writing and reading to an elite few. 

Who and what will they meet along their way? And what is the terrible truth behind everything they think they know about their world?

Author Claire Mabey's debut is a gripping fantasy quest, perfectly pitched to the intended reader, and beyond. Aimed at 10-14 year-olds, Mabey has crafted a thrilling read, set in a medieval world. Of course, books have no age and this is a story adult readers will be spellbound by too. Mabey is the founder of Verb Wellington and LitCrawl Wellington, the books editor at The Spinoff, book critic at RNZ and co-curator of the writers' programme at the Aotearoa NZ Festival of the Arts. Books are her passion. So it's no surprise that her debut novel centres around books. 

It did take a wee while to settle into the story, but that's no fault of the author. Mabey crafts an intricate world and deep characters. I was worried my tweens would feel overwhelmed with the language, but once we'd progressed through the first few chapters, they were hooked. Our nighttime read-aloud became one where all three of us tried to squirrel the book away to read ahead in secret. 

There's twists and turns a plenty, and magic too, with Mabey setting a cracking pace. 

Mabey's characters are full of vigour and personality, and flaws too. They stumble, mess up, learn and grow. Her younger characters are refreshing, they're ready to take on the world and fight for what is right. Both Getwin and Lea are strong female leads, with Getwin's mother, Gunnora and Aunt Lolly serving as role models. Mabey nails the relationships between her characters, with every interaction feeling authentic and genuine.

The ending is assured and satisfying. It's obvious that Mabey is keen to take her reader's back to Getwin's world with a sequel - and it will be eagerly awaited for in this house. 

The Raven's Eye Runaways is a bewitching story that will captivate readers.

Reviewer: Rebekah Lyell

Allen & Unwin


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