Fantasy, middle grade, Summer Reads

Caught in a Summer Spell: The Curse of the Raven Mocker

Original Farrar, Straus & Giroux cover

This little gem was a favourite of ours at The Flying Dragon Bookshop. It may not be a typical best-seller, but for those readers who love an author who can create atmosphere and cast a spell with words, Marly Youmans’ haunting tale of love and loss in the Blue Ridge Mountains is the perfect summer escape. The heady mix of Youman’s storytelling and the 40+ temperatures we’ve been experiencing recently in the city left me feeling deliciously drowsy, as if I had been bewitched by a Raven Mocker myself.

Adanta is alone in The Little Cottage In Between. Her beloved but poorly Ba disappeared weeks ago, seeking a lake with healing powers deep within the mountain that no one has visited except in old Cherokee legends. Now her mother has left, bewitched by the handsome James/Astugataga, who desires her for his own. With the help of her mysterious grandmother, Magpie Joe, and the handsome but tortured Pony Boy Tass, Adanta goes in search of her family in the strange lands of Adalanta, deep within the mountains.

I have a soft spot for lyrically written fantasy rooted in folklore. Although this is a very traditional narrative with a quest, a prophecy (of sorts), and magic, Youmans is working with unique source material, blending the Cherokee, Scottish, Irish and English lore that is particular to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Having spent many wonderful summers in this area, I appreciated Youmans’ clear, vivid depictions of the landscape and it’s mythologies. Cynthia Rylant is another children’s author who creates beautiful portraits of this area in her writing*.

Marly Youmans belongs in that coven of bewitching fantasy writers that includes Patricia McKillip, Monica Furlong and Janni Lee Simner. Her language is spare but sparkling, full of rich details that stick in your mind for days to come. I am still thinking of the giant, frightening brood of Messer boys and the cosy Little Cottage In Between. The story is quite sophisticated and many-layered, which is one of the reasons her children’s fantasy has such a large adult readership, and perhaps lends itself best to reading aloud.

The Curse of the Raven Mocker is available now in paperback from Firebird Fantasy.

*And now I want to listen to John Denver…

4 thoughts on “Caught in a Summer Spell: The Curse of the Raven Mocker”

  1. Hello Vikki–

    That’s a lovely review! I’m so glad that you liked the book.

    An interesting thing happened to me recently–I did a reading in the mountains, and a man from a big clan came and stayed after to quiz me on how I knew their secrets. He had read “Raven Mocker” and “Ingledove” and was sure that I had simply changed the names. However, he said that the Messer part had not even changed the names!

    1. Hi Marly! Wow- what a surreal experience. I imagine you were equal parts flattered and spooked. Thanks for stopping by the blog and I look forward to whatever you do next!

  2. It was entirely odd… a little alarming at first.

    I’m having a maniacal period of publication with a lot of books coming out. Brand new books of poems, “The Throne of Psyche” (Mercer University Press, and immaculately made–gorgeous in every way with a cover image from my friend Clive Hicks-Jenkins.). Then I have two other books of poems forthcoming, “Thaliad” (an epic poem involving a group of children, forthcoming from Phoenica in Montreal) and “The Foliate Head” (forthcoming from Stanza Press in the UK.) Also in the line-up are novels: “A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage (next year from Mercer; it won the Ferrol Sams Award–not a book for kids but fine for teens to read) and “Glimmerglass” and “Maze of Blood” from P. S. Publishing in the UK.

    I quit having an agent and have just responded to requests! Bit tired of the whole “scene.”

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