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White Raven: The Sword of Northern Ancestors…
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White Raven: The Sword of Northern Ancestors (edition 2012)

by Irina Lopatina, Igor Adasikov (Illustrator), Dmitry Lopatin (Translator), Anne Holway (Editor), Taylor Kennamer (Editor)

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aethercowboy's review
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Irina Lopatina is a Russia fantasy author. The title of her book has more hits on Google in English (2,800) than in Russian (9). However, this does not mean that the English version is phenomenal while the Russian version just isn’t. That much is left to be determined by a reader familiar enough in both languages.

The translation published by Light Messages is terrible. This is thanks to Irina’s brother, Dmitry Lopatin, who translated the book from Russian to English. Considering you don’t discover who the translator is until page 375 of 377, this could lead some readers to think it’s not just the result of a lousy translation, but rather, that it’s simply a lousy book. In my experience with translated books, even if the translator does not appear on the cover, they definitely get some credit on the title page or copyright page. This would at least prevent confusion among many readers trying to figure out why the language is so choppy.

Though this doesn’t excuse the Light Messages editors, whose jobs were, according to the author’s notes, to smooth out the translation. While I’m sure they liberally edited the prose, the lumps still poke through. Ultimately, it reads closer to a Google translation than anything even remotely resembling readable text.

An excerpt taken from the of the Russian edition of the book (published by FabrikaFantasy) goes as follows (from Chapter 8):

– Вот голову очертить – это совсем не лишнее, - д​еловито сказала яга. - Иначе он все твои мысли буд​ет знать как свои; их сейчас даже пикше понять лег​че лёгкого. Тогда у тебя вообще не останется никак​их шансов. А так – всё просто. Он почему неупокоен​ный? Потому что дух свой извлёк из себя и надёжно ​упрятал. Хочешь навсегда отправить его по ту сторо​

For kicks, here is a direct Google translation:

- Here is the head outline - it's not too much - Yaga said briskly. - Otherwise, he will know your thoughts as their own, they are now even easier to understand the haddock of the lung. Then you are left with no chance. And so - it's simple. It is why the Dead? Because his spirit to himself and pulled out safely hid. Would you like to send it all on the other side - destroy store …

And the Light Messages corresponding English passage:

“You definitely need to shield the workings of your mind,” the witch said in a busy manner. “Otherwise, he will know all your thoughts as easily as he knows his own. Even the pikshas are able to read your thoughts very easily. You would have no chance fighting any koschei without thought protection. Everything else is very easy. Why has he no peace? Because he pulled his spirit out of himself and hid it away. If you would like to get rid of him once and for all, you should find and destroy this storage. …”

Reading and comprehending this is like trying to watch a movie from a different room. You catch snatches of images, snatches of dialogue, and have to work really hard to piece it all together into a sensible narrative. With this sort of exercise, the effort expended outweighs the enjoyment derived.

Were I in charge of providing some editing, I would have done something like this to give it justice:

“You must first work to shield your mind,” said the yaga without hesitation. “Otherwise, he will be able to read your thoughts as well as his own. Even now, the pikshas can see into your mind with little trouble. You would stand no chance against Koschei without more mental defense. Once you have protected your mind, though, the rest is simple. Why do you think he has no peace? It is because he drew his spirit out of himself and hid it away. If you would like to destroy him once and for all, you must seek out and destroy the vessel that holds his soul. …”

Lopatina crafts an interesting story, but to read it in its present format, the reader must work extra hard to draw out the narrative’s life blood. Were this book better translated, I would recommend it to any fan of fantasy looking for something new. However, with the current state of the translation, I would recommend not reading it unless (a) you can get the Russian edition and can actually read and comprehend it, or (b) Lopatin releases a more professional translation that has been polished and buffed to near perfection. At that point, I wouldn’t mind having a heavily edited version of this book on the same shelves as Tolkien, Le Guin, and other authors who inspired Lopatina to draft this book in the first place, but only after that. Until then, I cannot in a clear conscience recommend this book to any fan of literature or fantasy or books in general. It much too much of a chore to read. ( )
  aethercowboy | Jun 23, 2012 |
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Showing 20 of 20
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is definitely a young adult/teen book. It is also written as the first book in a series that does not give you an ending this book. It is not a complete story within itself.

A classic attempt and a good vs. evil story, the young, fatherless "hero", is misunderstood by his peers and left, largely to his own devices. As a part of his growth, he explores the forest around his home and finds that there is an ancient evil looking to return. He needs to find out exactly what this evil is and a way to defeat it. But not in this book. Left me with an incomplete and unfulfilled feeling. ( )
  Oldwolf | Oct 20, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
When I received this book, I was quite excited. I would label this as a young adult or teen book, and generally I really enjoy reading books from this age group. However I believe that many readers might be frustrated with this novel. I found the writing style quite uneven, almost as if it had been written by two different authors. Having said that, I enjoyed, for the most part, the story. It's told in two parts, a fantasy part and a 'real' world part. The real world part is, in my opnion, the weaker half of the novel.

What I really liked was at the end of the book there was a character and critter list, along with illustrations. This made it very easy to reference the animal life of the fantasy world, The idea of the veil of magic was intriguing and fairly well thought out. However, without giving anything away of the storyline, there are holes and gaps in the story which leaves you wondering.

What I disliked the most was the sudden, abrupt ending to the book, that leaves the main storyline completely unresolved. One can only hope that this is the first of a trilogy or series, however it would have been nice if this had been indicated somewhere at the end (even a small "To Be Continued" at the end of the last paragraph would have gone a long way to solving the sense of abruptness.

Would I recommend this book? At this point of time, unless I knew for certain there was going to be a sequel to wrap up loose end, I'd have to say no.
  zandoria | Oct 16, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I wanted to like this book, I really did. But I couldn't finish it; rare for me. This is more like an outline FOR a book, and not a book to read that has been published. I understand that it has been translated from another language but really can't give it the benefit of the doubt due to that factor. The author took too much knowledge of other cultures' mythologies for granted and based her story on that, so the reader feels like she has been plunged into the middle of a story she doesn't know. The characters are not given enough background and "flesh" to make the reader wish them well or want to remain involved with them. The story jumps around too much without enough facts and descriptions to bind it together. Whoever edited this and did not choose to be honest with the author that this was not ready to be published, should be fired.
  RowanGolightly | Sep 10, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Unfortunately this book just could not hold my interest. I managed to stay with it for the first 100 pages or so, but at that point there was just not enough to keep me engaged.
This book is a very run-of-the-mill fantasy story, which includes all of the standard memes for the genre: sword-fighting, sorcery, evil creatures, etc. all overlaid on the backdrop of good vs. unknown evil. I was hoping that there would be some interesting twists since this was written by a Russian author, but other than a large cast of characters with Russian names, nothing particularly interesting stood out.
My main problems with this story stemmed from the weak writing, poor character development and lack of a unique plot.
There were so many instances of the use of trite phrases, the overuse of the message "the monsters are coming!" throughout the chapters and just a real lack of worldbuilding.
This book might interest a young, novice fantasy reader, but for anyone who has read with any depth in the genre it will immediately become a banal read.

It's possible that part of the problem lay with the translation, however, the general writing just does not convey particularly interesting descriptions of landscapes, interesting dialogue and runs from plot point to plot point with little background information or scene setting.
I also noticed too many inconsistencies and poor writing choices. Early on the Duke's brother is described as having died in a tragic accident, but in the next chapter the author writes that he died in a battle with the monsters. Also, for instance, the sons of the Duke and his brother are referred to as princes throughout, when they would be simply Lords or Marquees.

Overall, considering the dearth of young adult fantasy on the market I would recommend other more worthy stories for your reading. ( )
  Omakase | Aug 12, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I found this book a bit disconcerting at the beginning. The reader is very abruptly thrust into a medieval-type world of nobility and magic. The hero is a disaffected and fatherless youth at odds with his remaining family. There is very little background on the family, the youth himself or the fantastic world in which they live. It does not help that this book was originally written in Russian with much of Russian folklore and fairy tales as source material. In this day of books and movies such Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Twilight, etc., most readers are familiar with mages, werewolves and artefacts of power, but the Russian creatures and names still require more introduction than they receive. It takes time but eventually the reader is drawn in -- for me, it did not happen until the hero finds himself transported into the future io our own time and world to search for a missing magical sword. There is always some comedy involved in becoming accustomed to computers, horseless carriages and modern dwellings, but it also invokes some sympathy for the newcomer. Along the way, the hero acquires some modern day friends and helpers which are abruptly abandoned at the end as Vraigo returns home, sword in hand. This book is in no way complete in and of itself. A sequel is required. The book is probably suitable for age 10 or 11 and up, but it is somewhat more densely written than a typical book for this age group, although if the reader can make it through Harry Potter, he or she could also work through this book. I did not love this book but i did get sufficiently engaged to want to know what happens in the next book of the set or series. ( )
  dewasus1 | Jul 2, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I was given a very unique opportunity as an early reviewer, and that was to review the book a second time after the translation from Russian to English had been cleaned up. I am very grateful to the publisher for this chance to review White Raven again (You can read my old review at the end of this new one.)

White Raven is a fantasy book by Russian author Irina Lopatina. Because I enjoy the Scandinavian flavor of Elizabeth Boyer's books I was curious to see what a Russian perspective would add to a fantasy novel.

The book begins in the kingdom of Areya, were humans dwell and the Eternal Forest were werewolves, gnomes, druids (small tree folk) and other magical creatures live. Several of the creatures were new to me, and I would guess that is because they come from Russians mythology. Vraigo, the dukes nephew is gifted magically and as a warrior, but is an outcast among the humans who don't understand his love for the Eternal Forest and its inhabitants.

The first 2/3 of the book are pretty much standard fantasy fare, battles, magic, an evil villain who threatens the whole world, ect. Then it takes a very interesting time-travel twist. I enjoyed the "fish out of water" spin the book takes at this point. It becomes some what of a comedy having the warrior prince from long ago trying to adjust to life in the modern world.

I enjoyed it and would be interested to see where the next book in the series takes the story. I think if you enjoy fantasy you would enjoy the White Raven.

The following review was based on the advance readers copy, the final publication of White Raven had a much better translation.
*********************** Old Review************************
White Raven is a fantasy book by Russian author Irina Lopatina. Because I enjoy the Scandinavian flavor of Elizabeth Boyer's books I was curious to see what a Russian perspective would add to a fantasy novel.

The main problem was the translation was not very clean. Other reviewers have gone in depth on that subject so I won't. The book is pretty standard fantasy far, with a few new "Russian-esq" fantasy beings, until two-third through. At that point it takes an interesting time-travel twist. Despite not being a very good translation I enjoyed the "fish out of water" twist in the book. It becomes some what of a comedy at that point having the warrior prince from long ago trying to adjust to life in the modern world.

If you can get past the roughness of the translation I think this book would be an enjoyable read for anyone who likes fantasy. ( )
  Rosenectur | Jun 24, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I like this book for its differences. It is based on Russian mythology, which is a bit unusual. It is also written by a non-English speaker, which gives it a different feel. Once you get used to the sentence structure and language forms, its easy to read and follow and really has a unique feel. There aren't a whole host of characters and there is really only one plot thread, but that does not make this a bad book. In many ways, it is also a simple book. The sword Urart completely destroys monsters in some not very well described way, for example. This is definitely a young adult book, so it is relatively simple in plot and structure, but still enjoyable to read. About 2/3 of the way through it takes an unexpected twist. In some ways, the latter 1/3 is not written as well as the first 2/3, but the change in setting was interesting. I'd recommend this for any young adult reader interested in fantasy. The simplicity will not appeal to most adults, but it should be enjoyed by children. Unfortunately this book is the first of a trilogy and the ending is rather abrupt. ( )
  Karlstar | Jun 24, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Irina Lopatina is a Russia fantasy author. The title of her book has more hits on Google in English (2,800) than in Russian (9). However, this does not mean that the English version is phenomenal while the Russian version just isn’t. That much is left to be determined by a reader familiar enough in both languages.

The translation published by Light Messages is terrible. This is thanks to Irina’s brother, Dmitry Lopatin, who translated the book from Russian to English. Considering you don’t discover who the translator is until page 375 of 377, this could lead some readers to think it’s not just the result of a lousy translation, but rather, that it’s simply a lousy book. In my experience with translated books, even if the translator does not appear on the cover, they definitely get some credit on the title page or copyright page. This would at least prevent confusion among many readers trying to figure out why the language is so choppy.

Though this doesn’t excuse the Light Messages editors, whose jobs were, according to the author’s notes, to smooth out the translation. While I’m sure they liberally edited the prose, the lumps still poke through. Ultimately, it reads closer to a Google translation than anything even remotely resembling readable text.

An excerpt taken from the of the Russian edition of the book (published by FabrikaFantasy) goes as follows (from Chapter 8):

– Вот голову очертить – это совсем не лишнее, - д​еловито сказала яга. - Иначе он все твои мысли буд​ет знать как свои; их сейчас даже пикше понять лег​че лёгкого. Тогда у тебя вообще не останется никак​их шансов. А так – всё просто. Он почему неупокоен​ный? Потому что дух свой извлёк из себя и надёжно ​упрятал. Хочешь навсегда отправить его по ту сторо​

For kicks, here is a direct Google translation:

- Here is the head outline - it's not too much - Yaga said briskly. - Otherwise, he will know your thoughts as their own, they are now even easier to understand the haddock of the lung. Then you are left with no chance. And so - it's simple. It is why the Dead? Because his spirit to himself and pulled out safely hid. Would you like to send it all on the other side - destroy store …

And the Light Messages corresponding English passage:

“You definitely need to shield the workings of your mind,” the witch said in a busy manner. “Otherwise, he will know all your thoughts as easily as he knows his own. Even the pikshas are able to read your thoughts very easily. You would have no chance fighting any koschei without thought protection. Everything else is very easy. Why has he no peace? Because he pulled his spirit out of himself and hid it away. If you would like to get rid of him once and for all, you should find and destroy this storage. …”

Reading and comprehending this is like trying to watch a movie from a different room. You catch snatches of images, snatches of dialogue, and have to work really hard to piece it all together into a sensible narrative. With this sort of exercise, the effort expended outweighs the enjoyment derived.

Were I in charge of providing some editing, I would have done something like this to give it justice:

“You must first work to shield your mind,” said the yaga without hesitation. “Otherwise, he will be able to read your thoughts as well as his own. Even now, the pikshas can see into your mind with little trouble. You would stand no chance against Koschei without more mental defense. Once you have protected your mind, though, the rest is simple. Why do you think he has no peace? It is because he drew his spirit out of himself and hid it away. If you would like to destroy him once and for all, you must seek out and destroy the vessel that holds his soul. …”

Lopatina crafts an interesting story, but to read it in its present format, the reader must work extra hard to draw out the narrative’s life blood. Were this book better translated, I would recommend it to any fan of fantasy looking for something new. However, with the current state of the translation, I would recommend not reading it unless (a) you can get the Russian edition and can actually read and comprehend it, or (b) Lopatin releases a more professional translation that has been polished and buffed to near perfection. At that point, I wouldn’t mind having a heavily edited version of this book on the same shelves as Tolkien, Le Guin, and other authors who inspired Lopatina to draft this book in the first place, but only after that. Until then, I cannot in a clear conscience recommend this book to any fan of literature or fantasy or books in general. It much too much of a chore to read. ( )
  aethercowboy | Jun 23, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Like with much Russian literature I have read, I found it necessary to reread the preface several times through in order to figure out just which characters were which. There’s brothers, nephews, various important personages (although the entire novel shows a distinct lack of any strong, multidimensional female characters… but that’s a thought for later) and plethora preternatural critters. There was so much thrown at the reader so fast, it was a bit of a struggle to figure out who was doing what, and why it was important. I also needed to reread it several times because I kept getting lost in the syntax. The book was originally written in Russian, and it was quite evident that the translator was good, but not a native English speaker. The copy I was provided was an ARC, and so I hope before publication a good copy-editor would be able to straighten things out… however, after some brief research into the publisher, that hope is unlikely. The troubles with the syntax made the reading laborious, as I spent most of my time mentally rewriting the story rather than getting lost amongst the pages.

I really did enjoy the way the story took place in both a wholly fantasy realm and a more urban fantasy realm. The crossover was interesting, and reminiscent of Doctor Who or the movie Thor. I love when fantasy meshes with the classical folktales and mythology of a place. the White Raven branches that with a variety of Russian critters that are completely interesting, and make me want to become more familiar with the folktales of the area. It was a fabulous blending of genres.

Vragio fits neatly into the classic hero archetype…. He’s a fatherless prince, able to use magic. He goes off on a Epic Quest, where he must prove himself over and over. It’s all there, in fairly obvious form. Nik is the unlikely helper to Vragio’s hero. He’s a geek, just trying to make enough money to continue to take classes at University. While they’re both likeable and interesting, they really feel a bit bland within the confines of their respective roles.

Overall, it was enjoyable, and I look forward to the remaining books in the trilogy. ( )
1 vote Radella | Jun 14, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
As others have mentioned the translation of this book could have been better. I found the beginning of the book didn't flow very well because of the sentence structures. However, that being said I think if the translation was improved this would be a great book. It has a good plot and lead character. The supporting characters could use some more development though. Over all I would say give it a try. I would be interested in reading more in this series to see where she takes things. ( )
  ksd2 | Jun 12, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
In the original Russian this book may be a lyrical work of creativity. Or it may not be. Unfortunately the translation offered here reads as if the translator intended to use every word in the Oxford English Dictionary at least once and felt that no noun should have fewer than three different adjectives attached to it. The result is excruciatingly florid writing that is a chore to read.

I found the plot unoriginal and not very well written. There was too much telling about and too little showing. The characters are flat and undeveloped and none of them is particularly interesting.

Overall the book was a waste of time to read.

Not recommended. ( )
1 vote Helcura | Jun 12, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
White Raven: The Sword of Northern Ancestors by Irina Lopatina, Illustrations by Igor Adasikov
(377 pages) Trade Paper ARC ©2012 Light Messages Publishing

Disclosure: This book was received as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewer Program.

Without looking at the author notes in the back of the book it was clear from the beginning that this was originally not an English-language book. I suspected this based on how some of the early character interactions were structured. Editorially, it tightens up considerably later in the book into more commonly used (Americanized) sentence and paragraph structures.

It quickly develops along classical fairy tale lines; a fatherless prince, druids, and magii. Magic is commonplace, but not everyone is ‘Endowed’ with that talent. There are other woodland residents; some friendly, some indifferent, and some downright malign. A sudden increase in evil and dangerous creatures set the stage for destruction.

Pursuing an artifact that may save his people Vragio finds himself – or, rather is found by Nik, an unlikely geek – in the current time. His journey, it seems, has led him through not only magical layers of the Universe, but also of Time. Weres and Witches and darker creatures still exist, but appear in very different forms. There doesn’t seem to be a magical veil from which to draw Energy, but Vragio finds there is, in fact, a little magic left in this time.

The story plays out in nearly classical fairy tale fashion. Without leaving spoilers Vragio does find the Sword of the Northern Ancestors and heads back to his own time in space. There are many, many loose ends by the end of the book implying, if not requiring, additional books in this series. I look forward to seeing where these characters go. Even with the trials of translation they have been made full and rich enough to care about, and despite the somewhat predictable progression, I want to see where the story takes me next. ( )
  SomewhatBent | Jun 2, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I found this book difficult to get into, because, as other reviewers have mentioned, the translation from Russian is not very good. Sentence structure is very awkward and clumsy, and in some cases the translator has chosen a word that is simply wrong. For that reason I found it a difficult read.

The story itself is really fairly standard fantasy stuff. We have a magical world with a Duke with two witless sons and a third, who isn't actually a son but a nephew, and who has magical powers and must go on a quest to save the kingdom. Although some aspects of the magical system, and some of the magical creatures in the forest, are different from what you'll find in most Western fantasy fiction, the overall plot outline is very familiar. The hero is a little too perfect; he can solve any puzzle, fight any enemy, perform any magic spell that is needed to advance the plot. The uncle, cousins, and other warriors are two-dimensional at best. Wizards and magi are either good or bad, nothing in between. And so forth.

Things get a bit more interesting once the action moves to the present-day Earth, but even still, it all unfolds a little too conveniently to be believed. Would an ambulance crew really let a mysterious injured man and his friend just hop out of the ambulance and go their merry way without going to the hospital -- indeed, without even taking down their names and contact info? That's just one example. Then a girl comes onto the scene, who conveniently just happens to have access to the guy who has the missing sword. And then we're to believe that Nik can figure out how to disarm this millionaire's fancy security system in a matter of minutes. It just doesn't add up. Additionally, the pacing is erratic and the point-of-view narration switches characters sometimes from one paragraph to the next, which can be quite confusing.

The other thing that really bothered me about this book was the erasure of most of the female characters. At the beginning of the story we learn alllllll about Vraigo and his uncle and three male cousins, but not until several chapters in is there any mention at all of the mother and aunt! And even then it's just the briefest mention. In the opening scene set during Vraigo's childhood, the two druid children are presented as being his two best friends and constant companions; yet by the time they reach adulthood, it's just Vraigo and the boy -- the druid sister has been reduced to a harridan who shows up a couple of times to yell at them for getting themselves into danger. Similarly, we don't even see a hint of Vraigo's mother until halfway through the book, and then she just pops in to give him a magical amulet and tell him that she's worried about him, whereafter she disappears completely. Even the young woman in the modern-day section of the story serves only as an object of desire (when first introduced) and later as a plot device. This kind of thing really bothers me, particularly coming from a female author. In the year 2012 I expect better treatment of the female characters in a story like this.

As another reviewer noted, the book comes to a rather inconclusive end. Knowing that this was the first of a trilogy, I certainly didn't expect all of the plot threads to be neatly tied up, but I did at least expect to end with some sense of closure. That doesn't really happen here. And in the end, I just didn't enjoy the book enough to go and seek out the sequel. ( )
1 vote mamajoan | May 24, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
White Raven: The Sword of Northern Ancestors is the first book in a fantasy trilogy by Russian writer Irina Lopatina. The first part of the book is set in the kingdom of Areya, a country clearly inspired by the author's homeland of Siberia, and flavoured with magical residents - drevalyankas, pikshas, yagas, and the like - inspired by Russian folklore and mythology. At the time the tale begins, the country is under attack by monsters unlike any that have been seen before. Vraigo, nephew of the Grand Duke Vlady, sets out to discover where the monsters are coming from and who or what is responsible for them. However, just when it is needed most, his uncle's magical sword, Urart - the only sure defence the Areyans have against the monsters - is stolen, and Vraigo must go in search for it. His search takes him through different layers of the universe, and finally into the modern world, where he is aided in his quest by Nik, an unemployed student desperate to find a job so he can afford to continue his studies at university.

To begin with the most positive points first, I found the setting of White Raven to be intriguing and a refreshing change from the typical fantasy novel. The forests and mountains of Areya appealed to me, and they were clearly informed by Lopatina's own love for the land in which she lives. The protagonist, Vraigo, was also a thoroughly sympathetic character, especially in his struggles with being the constant outsider: His father was killed in an accident when Vraigo was young and there is little love lost between Vraigo and his uncle and cousins. Because of that, Vraigo spends most of his time in the forests and mountains, where he has befriended some of the magical residents. Skilled in both magic and fighting, Vraigo soon realizes who is responsible for bringing the monsters to Areya - yet when he attempts to warn the Grand Duke, he is not believed and thought simply to be a coward, thinking up wild stories as excuses for why he will not fight with the others. Plunged out of his world into ours, Vraigo soon becomes even more of an outsider, struggling to figure out the modern world, recover the sword Urart, and cope with the lack of a magical veil - the source from which he draws his magical powers. With all of these elements, White Raven certainly had the potential to become an excellent book.

However, the book suffers from awkward phrasing and word choices that prevent the prose from flowing as smoothly as it should have. Lopatina originally wrote White Raven in Russian, and had it translated into English by her brother. This makes me wonder about whether the awkward feel of the prose is simply due to something being lost in translation. Another major issue that prevented my complete enjoyment of this novel were the frequent switches in point of view that occurred without warning: on the same page and even in the same paragraph. For example, Nik would be looking at Vraigo and wondering what he was thinking, and then in the next paragraph we would suddenly be hearing Vraigo's thoughts. There's nothing wrong with alternating points of view, as long as they are set off in different sections of the text so that the reader will be prepared for them. The shifting points of view in this book merely gave the book a sloppy feel and were ultimately confusing to read. Although the story did pick up in pace and become more engaging once it shifted to the modern world about halfway through, I did feel that things were simply a bit too easy for Vraigo there. The way they constantly eluded the police and other authorities, despite Vraigo getting into fights everywhere and generally drawing attention to himself way more than he should have, seemed a bit too good to be true. So did the speed at which Vraigo picked up the language, and even learned how to use a cell phone. I know he's supposed to be good at understanding other languages, but still. And the ending of the book, and the resolution of Vraigo's quest for the sword Urart, also seemed a bit easy and felt like it came too quickly. There other elements that I felt were confusing and not explained clearly enough: how the magic worked, how the different universes and times were connected, and how the monsters and Vraigo could move through them. As for the "monsters" themselves, they simply felt a bit too vague. I think some more description and details there would have helped me to feel the danger of the monsters more clearly.

Overall, White Raven, although it does have several issues, still does have potential as well. If Lopatina clarified some of the confusing parts and tightened up her use of different points of view, and if the translation was improved, I think the future books in the series might not be too bad. The characters were engaging, I even laughed out loud at some of Vraigo's escapades in the city, and I would be interested in finding out what happens to Vraigo and Areya next. I do think there is a good story lurking in White Raven - it just needs a bit more help in getting out, and hopefully the next books in the series will be an improvement. ( )
  Heather39 | May 21, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book definitely had a few issues. In several places it was hard to follow, didn't make sense, and just didn't flow. The best example is Chapter 11; it took me several pages to figure out what was going on here. In spite of these issues, I did end up enjoying the book. Most of the problems occurred within the first half, and the second half was much more enjoyable. I liked it enough to read the sequel and hope that the author (who definitely has a good plot design) will learn from her earlier mistakes. Overall, a decent first showing. ( )
  willowcove | May 16, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
White Raven: The Sword of Northern Ancestors by Irina Lopatina (April 2012 batch LibraryThing Early Reviewers) is the first book in a trilogy. The book brings to life a beautiful landscape and fantasy. The main character Vraige is gifted and stumbling by turns. He finds that "The Enemy of my Enemy, is my friend" He must adapt and grow to survive. I feel the wording was left with a Siberian flavor on purpose to remind us that this is not in our own back yard. I look forward to the next book in the series. ( )
1 vote Pebblesgmc | May 11, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Disclosure: I received this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. Some people think this may bias a reviewer so I am making sure to put this information up front. I don't think it biases my reviews, but I'll let others be the judge of that.

White Raven is a young adult fantasy that is somewhat notable because Irina Lopatina is Russian. This has the beneficial effect of making the fantasy slightly unusual, as all of the fantasy elements are derived from Russian folklore as opposed to the more common Tolkien derivatives that dominate standard fantasy novels. On the other hand, this has the somewhat less beneficial effect of making some of the language used in the book somewhat less than artfully composed. Whether the awkward language was the result of a non-native English speaker writing in what for Irina not her mother tongue, or the result of her first writing the book in Russian and then having it translated is not clear. These bits of clumsy phrasing aside, the book is an enjoyable folklore laden tale about a magically gifted hero who must overcome his uncle's disdain as well as magically endowed monsters to recover the one weapon that has the ability to stop the sorcerous assault upon his homeland.

The hero of the novel is Vraigo, the nephew of Vlady, the Grand Duke of Areya. His father, the Grand Duke's brother, died when Vraigo was young, and the young prince was raised alongside his two cousins Tagas and Seles. But Vraigo is something of an odd duck, not content with the sword practice of the training field, he runs off every day to study under the tutelage of Agar, a friendly magus who helps awaken the ability to see the "blue veil" in the young prince, which is how humans see and interact with the magical realm. Agar is visited by a mysterious magus and vanishes in short order, leaving Vraigo to mature into a wielder of magical abilities on his own.

The story then jumps forward several years where we find Vraigo and his cousins have grown into men. Tagas and Seles have both joined their father's fighting forces, but the magically endowed Vraigo prefers to walk the paths of the nearby forest with his druid friend Belsha tracking down and dealing with the more inimical denizens of the wood: pikshas, rusalkas, werewolves, yagas, and worse. Vraigo's choice of vocation is a great disappointment to his uncle the Grand Duke, because in the Grand Duke's estimation if Vraigo were brave, he would join the army and lead men on the battlefield. This is based upon the Grand Duke's suspicion that the powers asserted by magi are just made up, which seems to be an odd objection given that the Grand Duke lives in a world in which exotic monsters like werewolves and witches are demonstrably real. This objection seems even odder when it is revealed that the Grand Duke relies upon magical griffons to guard his treasure room, including his magical sword Urart. In our own history, being interested in learning was often seen as "unmanly" by those of a more brawny inclination. But in a world in which the magically inclined can summon fiery salamanders to burn their enemies, it seems like the military applications of knowledge would alter this perception.

In any event, Vraigo must deal with his uncle's disapproval and his cousins' mild derision while going about protecting Areya from the various magical threats that lurk in the nearby forest, swamp, and mountains. After an expedition to an abandoned gnomish city with Belsha where they pick up some finely crafted gnomish castoffs. Vraigo meanders through the first half of the story trying to figure out why the gnomes and other "peaceful" magical inhabitants of the forest and mountains seem to be disappearing. During this section, one of the weaknesses of the book crops up as characters seem to amble into and out of the story more or less at random. Vraigo starts with Belsha as his sidekick, but later Belsha is incapacitated and Vraigo takes up with a dravalyanka named Shi-Shi. Along the way a werewolf named Kenush shows up to befriend Vraigo, help him out of a tight scrape or two, and then wanders out of the narrative. The Grand Duke's magically inclined youngest son Rohan pops up along with the scholar Estevah to help Vraigo track down the source of the mysterious influx of evil creatures, and then both characters are sidelined. While some of this character shuffling is probably attributable to the fact that White Raven is intended to be the first book of a planned trilogy, and as a result, some characters and story lines need to be introduced at this stage that will only pay off in later books, this game of musical characters is still distracting.

Vraigo determines that a koschei - a magus who has figured out a way to use his magical gifts to make himself immortal - is responsible for all the troubles. But his search for the evil magus is interrupted when the magical sword Urart, the only weapon that seems to be effective against the strange new magical beasts that have shown up to terrorize the populace, is stolen from the Grand Duke's treasury. While the Grand Duke and his soldiers set off to engage in a futile fight against the invading monsters, Vraigo heads off to try to track down the location of the sword. Of course, since Vraigo is trying to locate the only weapon that can actually damage the monsters rather than charging off to get killed in a pointless act of machismo like the rest of them, the Grand Duke and all of his soldiers sneer at Vraigo and call him a coward. While this does build a little bit of dramatic tension, it mostly makes the "martial" characters seem somewhat dim-witted.

While chasing after the sword, Vraigo is directed to a lair of tanars by the gnomes who originally stole it and plunges headlong after them. After locating the sword, Vraigo and Shi-Shi charge into a mob of tanars and are quickly overwhelmed and knocked out. Inexplicably, the two wake up in the twenty-first century. Perhaps the details of how getting knocked on the head in a cave causes Vraigo to be thrown forward several hundred years in time will be explored in a later part of the series, but in this volume, he simply gets knocked out and wakes up to find himself in our world. Note that although I said that he is thrown forward in time from his fantasy medieval home into the twenty-first century, this is only an assumption on my part, and an assumption that the characters in the book make as well. There are some hints that Vraigo may have actually gone backwards in time, with our familiar modern world serving as the mysterious ancestors of Vraigo's time.

Whether his trip to the twenty-first century is a trip to the future or the past, it is also the weakest part of the book. Although Vraigo's turn as a fish out of water seems somewhat promising, Nik and Lera, the two characters he befriends in his search for Urart, are fairly bland and uninteresting. This is not surprising, since almost everything in the generic unnamed city that Vraigo knocks about in is bland and uninteresting. This may have been an intentional choice on the part of the author, to try to contrast the magical nature of Vraigo's home epoch with the more mundane modern era, but if so, it was done in such a subtle way as to be almost invisible. The modern era portion of the book does provide an interesting twist when it is revealed that even though there is almost no magic in our world, that the various magical beings that Vraigo is familiar with still lurk in our society, even if they themselves don't realize their true nature: a collection of street thugs turns out to actually be a pack of werewolves, an aging nightclub owner is revealed to be a yaga, and so on. This, plus Vraigo's observation that the movie posters in Nik's room depict the magical creatures of ancient Areya, serves to connect the two portions of the story. But this connection doesn't really go anywhere other than to reinforce that Areya and the unnamed city Nik hails from coexist in the same geographic location, albeit separated temporally.

The plot in the modern era proceeds fairly rapidly. Nik and Vraigo first stumble about trying to raise some cash, then they join up with Lera and head off to an antiquities museum. After a little bit of internet research and a lot of serendipity the trio engage in an improbable heist to recover the sword and then Vraigo walks off into the woods, at which point the book ends abruptly. Given that this is the first book in a planned trilogy, leaving plot points unresolved is to be expected. Even with that caveat, however, White Raven seems to cut off prematurely as soon Vraigo has gotten his hands on Urart. This abrupt ending, combined with some fairly awkward phrasing that likely resulted from being translated from Russian to English, makes for a jarring finish to an otherwise enjoyable adventure.

Overall, White Raven: The Sword of Northern Ancestors is a pleasant although oddly flawed book. While one generally expects that the opener to a trilogy will contain a fair amount of exposition and unresolved story lines, White Raven seems to have entirely too much left up in the air when the reader arrives at the final page and Vraigo has not even formulated a plan for returning to his own time period and yet leaves Nik and Lera behind as he walks off into the woods. It is quite possible that once the remaining two installments of the series are published that the complete story will turn out to be excellent, however, based solely on what is in this volume, it can only be described as a pleasant but merely average book.

This review has also been posted to my blog Dreaming About Other Worlds. ( )
1 vote StormRaven | May 11, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The use of elements of Russian mythology as a backdrop gave this book the potential to stand out despite a plot set-up that's rather common in fantasy. Unfortunately, the koschei, drevalyankas, pikshas, and the like wind up feeling interchangeable with more familiar fantasy elements (the bolug, a boulder-like creature, did feel unique, though, but couldn't be used more than it was due to its nature).

The story has several other problems, too. The least of these is the translation. Some word choices feel slightly off (for example, referring to an evil wizard as a "rotter" after he's attempted to drain the life of another character is remarkably mild), and the word order is just plain wrong at times (an early sentence ends "impatiently yelled beaten Seles."). However, this isn't bad enough to make reading a chore, even if it should have been dealt with in the editing.

The pacing, on the other hand, is a more fundamental problem, at least partly due to it being the first book of a trilogy. While the book does (more-or-less) stand on its own, it spends a noticeable amount of time setting up things that will presumably become relevant later. This is understandable, and probably necessary for the overall story, but the flashbacks, demonstrations of abilities, and setting up of character roles tend to feel too long for their minimal or non-existant relevance to the story in this book. This also probably leads to another pacing problem: the resolutions of several major problems in the story, including the main one of this book, seem rather rushed, as if the author realized that they needed to be resolved soon so that there'd be a decent ending at the right point.

The decision to transport the main character to our world about halfway through the book doesn't do the story any favors, either. While the hero's homeland felt a bit generic, it still felt more real than the modern world as depicted in the book. Part of this is probably due to the decision to give no indication of where in the world the unnamed city is, but there is also a definite problem with things working in completely unbelievable ways. The internet, in particular, is just as much a source of magic as the mystic veil of the hero's homeland; finding enough information in one day to be able to defeat an alarm system knowing only that it's a box with "alarm" embossed on it isn't the most unlikely thing done using it. Also, at this point, another main character is introduced, and the viewpoint tends to shift between them a bit too frequently (at least once, it changes twice on the same page).

Probably the biggest problem, though, is that there never really feels like there's all that much of a threat. Various antagonists are said to be powerful or dangerous but rarely seem particularly effective when we actually see them, the shift to our world manages to render a deadline pretty much irrelevant since there's no way to tell how close it is (or even if the passage of time in our world matters at all for this), and a couple of conflicts that actually seem like they might go against the protagonists are basically cut short by the sudden arrival of more power (one a cavalry charge that serves the purpose of establishing the power of the MacGuffin, the other by the sudden emergence of a not-particularly-well-foreshadowed ability).

Overall, while I think the author has potential, she needs some more practice and a better translator. ( )
1 vote Gryphon-kl | May 11, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
There is a story here, that much is clear. Unfortunately, it's a bit obtuse and difficult to get to, thanks to the wording. I'm a voracious reader, and not much trips me up. I think the difficulty here comes, not from the storytelling, but from a language or translation barrier. The author is Russian, and once I understood that, the difficult names and odd syntax and awkward wording in places made a little more sense to me.

If you read this book, I suggest you approach it more like a classic folktale than a modern fantasy romp. It's not really set up like the latter. ( )
  zannyvix | May 7, 2012 |
"Areya always needed a blade to protect it, but only a few can truly wield it. "White Raven" is a fantasy novel surrounding the Kingdom of Areya, enjoying its own harmony. Vraigo, known as the White Raven, knows it is up to him to recover Urart, the sword that blessed Areya with protection for quite some time. As time grows short, Vraigo realizes it all falls to him. "White Raven" is an excellent pick for lovers of fantasy and adventure, much recommended.

~ The Midwest Book Review, Small Press Bookwatch: June 2012

-------------------------

White Raven: The Sword of Northern Ancestors is Irina Lopatina's debut novel and the first in the White Raven trilogy. Inspired by the pristine, ancient forests of Irina's native Siberia, the landscape and characters of White Raven: The Sword of Northern Ancestors come to life throughout the text. It's easy for the reader to hear the wise drevalyanka's thoughts or to loathe the irksome pikshas while forming a tenuous friendship with Kenush, the beautiful but dangerous werewolf. This epic fantasy is sure to be a winner with lovers of the classics and an easy entry into the genre for newbies (like me). Vraigo, the White Raven, and our hero, is flawed enough that we can relate to him, and gifted enough that we root for him throughout the book. In his homeland of Areya, Vraigo dominates, but he is comically inept when he finds himself facing his greatest challenge yet: a big city in the 21st century where werewolves masquerade as muggers and a witch hides beneath the disguise of a seductress.

White Raven: The Sword of Northern Ancestors blurs the line of good vs. evil by creating a conflict where natural enemies must form alliances to defeat an even greater enemy, adding a layer of complexity and interest over many traditional fantasy novels. This book reads beautifully and exotically while wrapping the reader in its pages. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys fantasy!

~Elizabeth Turnbull ( )
  LightMessages | Mar 23, 2012 |
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