Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle by George Hagan
What a delightfully fun book! Filled with adventure, legends, evil vs. good, villains, quests and young heroes, this book is a great read for both guys and gals.
Gabriel Finley’s world was a normal human world just like yours and mine (almost). There was really nothing extraordinary about it at all (that he knew of). Gabriel lived with his Aunt Jasmine in a classic old brownstone house in Brooklyn. It had belonged to his grandparents and was filled with odd-looking furniture and pictures of odd-looking ancestors, including a creepy picture of his Uncle Corax. Gabriel didn’t remember his mother because she disappeared when he was very little. But he remembered his father very well. He had only gone missing three years ago, leaving behind a mysterious note Gabriel’s Aunt Jaz had found. He and his friends walked to school every day. Gabriel wasn’t exactly hero material. He was even bullied once in awhile at school. He had no special talents except for one…he loved riddles. It was something he had in common with his father, who always said riddles were good for the mind.
It was one of those normal days where Gabriel was trying to get more information about his father’s disappearance from his Aunt Jaz when she finally relented and gave him his father’s diary, called the Book of Ravens. Reading it was an eye opener because it related an experience his father had when he was Gabriel’s age. Unknown to most humans of the day, ravens and humans had a history together. At one time, they were close friends. They spoke together as equals. Ravens sang lullabies to their friends’ babies and accompanied their amicus everywhere. They even went to war and served as look-outs.
But then something horrible happened to change the camaraderie to fear. It started with one bad raven who recruited other ravens to the same evil fate he suffered through temptations to become like him. Since then, there have been two types of ravens, the good ones and the evil ones. The evil ravens, called valravens were doomed to eternal torment and inner coldness, unable to die. To tell them apart, ravens would ask a strange raven a riddle. If the unknown raven laughed, he was accepted. Valravens never laughed. Their world was miserable, dark and humorless.
Most of what he read didn’t seem real to Gabriel until one day a raven chick asked him a riddle and he answered it. Then its next cryptic statement brought to focus all he learned in this father’s diary, “Corax must not find the torc.” It seemed the young bird, Paladin, Gabriel and his friends were destined for a long and dangerous adventure.
As a parent, an elementary teacher, and a tutor, I know this would be a book that would appeal to most boys and girls and young teens. It begins with humorous adventures as we become acquainted with Gabriel, Abby, Pamela and Soams. Then the story moves more into the fantasy arena when the young people begin to interact with ravens and those who befriend the ravens. Finally, we catch a glimpse of a grander scheme–the quest to keep a valuable and deadly item, the torc, out of the hands of Evil, and the rescue of Gabriel’s father. The story moves from light and entertaining to more serious and intense activity. There is darkness, but never despair and hopelessness. The story moves along at a quick pace, and tension intensifies in the final third of the book. I would recommend this adventure for fourth graders up to young adults, although I enjoyed it myself. The caveat I have to mention is that the valravens are referred to as ghouls and they do participate in some ghoulish behavior. This may disturb more sensitive readers. However, there is no crude or lude language, no swearing or major moral complications. It is a great epic adventure.
In fact, Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle is a book with potential, in my opinion, to become a classic piece of literature. Not only does it read like a classic, I believe this book would make a wonderful children’s cartoon movie. In its sweeping epic theme, we find the time-honored clash between good and evil, opportunities for young heroes to rise up and save the world, and a classic scary villain. There are world shattering stakes involved and lots of adventure, magic, and character building events. All the right elements are present. The scope of the story reminds me of the movie, “The Legend of the Guardians.” I think this tale could become
a similar type of movie.
From what I read at the end, I believe there will be more to this book in a series. If so, I’m looking forward to reading it.
Visit George Hagan’s website.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley, on behalf of Random House Children’s Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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