Ravenheart by David Gemmell

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Nov 23, 2002
I found this story to be hugely equally enjoyable and frustrating in equal measure.

Enjoyable, because we have Gemmell's classic attention to character, as the story opens to follow Kaelin Ring, Gaise, Taybard Jaekel, Mulgrave, Jaim, Maev, and offers the promise to show how these people - and their relationships with one another - will develop through the story.

Additionally, there was the awesome prophecy that, at some point, Kaelin of the Rigante would need to save Gaise of the Varlish.

So far so good - and for the first 90% of the story.

Then as it neared the end it became apparent that there was no way this book was going to be able to join up all of the various threads that had been set up. Even worse, completely new antagonists, not least the Varlish Church and the Knights of the Sacrifice, suddenly appear near the end without foreshadowing, to put the squeeze on the characters we've read.

And then the most frustrating part of all - that when the book does end, it is to tell us that this wasn't really a story about Kaelin, whom we've followed through most of the book, or even Blaise, for whom was given much promise - but instead, that this entire book was actually about Jaim, despite that he is little more than a secondary character through the majority of the story.

I had hoped that this would mean that Ravenheart was a two part story, and that the fourth Rigante book, Stormrider, would follow on directly from it. Unfortunately, from what little I've seen, it follows on only in the way that Midnight Falcon followed Sword in the Storm - as in, not really, other than that we meet some of the same characters, but many years later.

I'm therefore left scratching my head as to what to think about Ravenheart. Much of the time it seems like a great story in the making - only to suddenly conclude far too quickly and unsatisfactorily. And when it did end:

it was simply to say that the drunken thief and killer, Jaim Grymuch, was some form of magical embodiment of all that is Holy. WTF?! The Source is now some kind of embodiment of a trickster god??
Jaim is the embodiment of a guardian to the keltoi peoples, and it is the bull which he Kealin steal at the beginning which embodies the keltoi: strong, powerful, beautiful, noble and proud, and yet imprisoned. The thieving of this bull is a metaphor for Jaim's dream of freeing the keltoi from the varlish yoke. We see that same metaphor again when Jaim arrives unexpectedly at Ironlatch farm and rescues the bull from the flood.

Jaim is not some godly messiah, it is simply that his deeds of kindness and selfless courage over the years have given much magic to the world and (as I interpret) built up magic within him which is released at the end.

I agree, those knights do appear as if from nowhere but the church is set up earlier during the festival at the beginning.

I could just read this again now, but my only copy is a signed first edition so I won't taint it with my finger grease!
The Jaim/Maev storyline makes me cry. To the best of my recollection i've never cried when reading. Never. I've read the burning stake scene three times over the years and each time it gets me. I've absolutely no idea why. I wish i understood why.
but why.

What is it about that scene that inspires the emotion. I got a similar chill in Words of Radiance by Sanderson when Kaladin drops into the arena after saying ''honour is dead''. This emotional link from author to reader is what makes the books brilliant.
I think it's got something to do with the fact that Jaim is a wonderful but flawed man, we see in him the strengths that we would like to have and the weaknesses that we do have. Added to that you have his unrequited love for Maev, something I'm sure most of us have known, and we get a character with which we can all associate. And it's because of that connection that we get (for some of us anyway) a deep emotional response at the end.
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