Title: A Conventicle of Magpies
Author: L.M.R. Clarke
Genre: Fantasy/ YA/ Historical Fiction
Favourite Quote: ‘This is why factories belched smoke into the night. It was why people were turning up dead and bloodless, and why Magpie hadn’t wanted Rook to go alone. Blood was valuable. Blood was money. Blood was worth killing for.’
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley.*
Rook is an unapologetic thief, determined to do anything to ensure her mother and siblings survive the squalid and dangerous streets of Stamchester.
Rook slips, like a shadow, in and out of the homes of the ruling elite, the Avanish, and steals what she needs. She feels no regret, afterall, the Avanish have enslaved her people, the Saosuíasei, and worse, have now determined the Saosuíasei to be disposable and worthy of nothing other than death.
However, Rook is not the only shadowy figure in Stamchester. And far more deadly one haunts the filthy streets, striking fear into Avanish and Saosuíasei alike. A serial killer who drains every ounce of blood from his victims, and satisfies the elite’s demand for blood to burn in the magical art of Bloodskill and enhance their own natural, and sometimes unnatural, abilities.
I’m sorry to say that I found that I just could not finish this book. I hate giving negative reviews because it’s about my personal opinion not about the author themselves. Others have really enjoyed this book based on the reviews I’ve seen so if you like historical fiction with a dash of magic and revolution by all means give it a go! Personally though, every time I picked it up, I got through a few pages before getting distracted by something else. I just couldn’t invest myself into the story enough to keep going and I was getting frustrated by it because I feel like it had so much potential. In the end, I only got half way through before I accepted it for what it was and stopped.
The story is told by Rook, a young thief living in the slums of the city with her family and her gang of female rebels who protect the people around them by robbing the rich and giving to the poor. Robin Hood would have been proud. Rook had everything you could want in a main protagonist, she was brave, clever and always put others first. I just couldn’t connect to her, I wasn’t emotionally invested in her story at all. She was the best of the best but yet every time she went out on a task, something went wrong and she had to rely on others to get her out – it wasn’t exactly convincing and whilst I appreciate the author was giving her a realistic ‘everyone makes mistakes – even the best of the best’ part of her character, it just fell flat for me. Even when she pushed through every situation with her fearless personality, she felt weak. A strong protagonist wouldn’t have relied on her Bloodskill so much in every situation, even if she was one of a few who could possess more than one Skill.
Bloodskill. That was interesting, but I wish there was more information surrounding it, a bit of backstory as to where it came from. It was brought up so often yet I felt like it was just a cheat for the characters when they were in a difficult situation and that’s all. I liked that the Jack the Ripper style character was brought in as an additional villain to focus more on the Bloodskill as he was draining the lives of others for the powers the blood possessed. Just having Billy Drainer would have been enough for me as the main villain to hold interest in the story as it connected so well with the Bloodskill and made it more significant to the plot. He was so much more intriguing than the complete revolution put together that it felt like a missed opportunity.
‘The moon loomed high and heavy above the city. It glided the figure standing before her. His breath rose like smoke from his shapeless face. Rook narrowed her eyes, trying to make sense of the vague silhouette. The figure cocked his head to the side. His gloved hand flexed on the handle of his blade. There was something strange about his movements, as if he was someone she knew. But she didn’t, of course. She’d never met him. This figure, without doubt, was the infamous Billy Drainer. He stepped forwards. Rook stood her ground and flicked her wrist, sending her spare blood coursing through her veins. His pace was eerie in its slowness, and his hand kept flexing on his blade. He kept his head cocked to the side, as if he was an animal seeing a person for the first time. As Drainer grew closer, she Skilled her sight just enough to make out the details of his face. But there weren’t any.’
In regards to the story itself, there was too much going on that the smaller details got lost along the way. You had the Avanish people who came to their land, built a huge city and repressed the Saosuíasei people to the slums of their new city for decades when they found them useless and plans to remove them for good. The Conventicle of Magpies thieving group which Rook belongs too with her fellow bird named members who use their abilities to help the poor when the police won’t. Then you had the infamous Shadow of Jaguars who go beyond thieving to get what they want and have more authority in the slums who suddenly want to team up with the Magpies for a revolution against the Avanish people. THEN you had Billy Drainer who is a Saosuíasei murdering his own in the night for reasons unknown aside from gaining Skills. There was just too much going on, too many characters that came and went that you just couldn’t care about any of them enough to emotionally invest yourself in the story around them. Even Rook’s family was too big that I only remember two of her family members.. one of them being Kestrel her best friend who lives with her.
I wanted to see more of Rook’s family personally, her relationships with those working under Mama Magpie and how they each chose their bird names. I wanted to see more of their slum life and situations to fully put myself in the slums with the Saosuíasei people. I wanted to explore more of the Jaguars and why they went silent for so long, and I wanted to see more of Billy Drainer because he made the story more interesting than the rich Avanish people and their schemes.
I do have to give credit where credit is due, the world building was fantastic. The scenery was great, you could really immerse yourself in the slum life with their derelict building, limited resources, and hopeless environment all the way to the riches of the Avanish city with their working telephones, bright lights, extravagant houses full of riches and their motorcars driving around. It really pushes the revolution to a new level with the distinct differences in the unfamiliar advances in technology and travel.
I wanted to thank the author for allowing me a copy of her book in exchange for an honest review. If you want to check this book out for yourselves, it’s also available on Kindle Unlimited.
Thanks for reading 🙂
What would you do to save your loved ones from slavery and a blood-draining serial killer?
Rook is an unapologetic thief, determined to do anything to ensure her mother and siblings survive the squalid and dangerous streets of Stamchester.Rook slips, like a shadow, in and out of the homes of the ruling elite, the Avanish, and steals what she needs. She feels no regret, afterall, the Avanish have enslaved her people, the Saosuíasei, and worse, have now determined the Saosuíasei to be disposable and worthy of nothing other than death. However, Rook is not the only shadowy figure in Stamchester. And far more deadly one haunts the filthy streets, striking fear into Avanish and Saosuíasei alike. A serial killer who drains every ounce of blood from his victims, and satisfies the elite’s demand for blood to burn in the magical art of Bloodskill and enhance their own natural, and sometimes unnatural, abilities.