One of the scariest films I ever watched as a child (without my parents’ knowledge) was The Birds, Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s novelette. So the front cover of Ravens Gathering had me hooked before I even started reading the blurb. I mean, look at it, it’s beautiful, creepy, and scary all at once. But this is a book not a front cover design review (!) so what did I think of the contents?
As she let her gaze drift around her, she saw that there were more birds. Perhaps a dozen or so, perched among the trees that stood on the edge of the clearing. And yet more were arriving, swooping down through the gap overhead and landing on branches that overlooked them. The birds weren’t threatening, yet the sight of them all coming together in this dark and isolated spot was unnerving. Tanya reached a hand out towards Martin, and was relieved to feel him take it. She felt him move in behind her. After the uncertainty she’d experienced with him in a similar position only a few moments ago, she recognised the irony of her reaction. His closeness offered security.
“You know what they are, don’t you?”
A stranger’s arrival in a small village coincides with a tragic accident. For the Gates family in particular it’s more than a coincidence, but unease increases following a brutal attack. As tensions rise, a dark past returns to haunt them and others, while newcomers to the village are drawn into a mystery with terrifying consequences.
And only a select few know why the ravens are gathering.
About the author
Graeme Cumming lives in Robin Hood country. He has wide and varied tastes when it comes to fiction so he’s conscious that his thrillers can cross into territories including horror, fantasy and science fiction as well as more traditional arenas. When not writing, Graeme is an enthusiastic sailor (and, by default, swimmer), and enjoys off-road cycling and walking. He is currently Education Director at Sheffield Speakers Club. Oh yes, and he reads (a lot) and loves the cinema.
Ravens Gathering opens with a nightmare, followed by a horrific machinery accident, and then the return of a prodigal son to the small village he grew up in. Right from the start, you can sense the ominous overtones. The first half of the book deals with Martin’s quest to find out why his family – and fellow villagers – are so unwelcoming and dismayed to see him.
Martin ends up staying with Tanya and Ian, a couple of newcomers with their own problems. I have to say I did like Tanya (although I’m not entirely sure I was supposed to) she was definitely her own woman. And then, around chapter 17 the story suddenly kicks up about three gears and goes off in directions that you never expected. New characters appear, some good, some bad, some not even human, and the overall jigsaw gets much bigger and more complex.
As the book speeds towards its conclusion, at times you really do feel like you’re reading something from a Hammer House of Horror or Twilight Zone script. The story is told from different characters’ viewpoints so there are shifts in perspective. In fact everything is written in such a way that you are continually kept guessing and, in some cases, questioning what you’ve just read (in a good way, I hasten to add).
The ending is a fitting resolution to the mystery of Martin’s nightmares although I’m intrigued by Graeme Cumming’s footnote. Apparently, Ravens Gathering isn’t a one-off book and three of the characters will show up in other books too. I think I can hazard a guess which three, but I’ll be interested to see if I’m right – watch this space!
Would I recommend it?
Yes, I think I would although it’s a hard novel to categorise because it mixes so many genres: horror, thriller, science fiction, supernatural. But the writing is so good that it’s really quite unputdownable. I took it on holiday, thinking the nearly 500 pages would see me through the week but in fact I finished it after three days.
Reading my post back, I’m aware that I may not have written the most enticing and cliché-free review but this is such a hard book to write about without giving anything away. All I can say is that Graeme Cumming has written a gripping book which drew me in and kept me hooked until the very last page. I don’t think I can write a better recommendation than that 🙂
Many thanks to Love Books Group Tours for organising a copy of Ravens Gathering for me to review. And don’t forget to check out what my fellow Blog Tour reviewers thought of the book too – see below:
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