Cover Image: The Ravenmaster

The Ravenmaster

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Member Reviews

A lovely tribute to the ravens at the Tower of London by the one who knows them best, the Ravenmaster.  Skaife's pleasant and entertaining style that has been a factor in his Twitter success carries over to this book.  He has a balanced approach of characterizing the ravens' individual personalities but also respecting the fact that they are intelligent birds and definitely not pets.  If you have ever visited the Tower, you will especially enjoy his descriptions of daily life there and a few peeks behind the scenes, and, of course, the antics of the ravens (I have fond memories of my first visit when I "met" Merlina, who preened and posed for a photo as I stood as close as I dared...three feet away!).
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Who knew that a book about ravens could be so fascinating?? The Ravenmaster is a fun and fast read, and it's almost like you and the author are sitting in a bar conversing over a pint. Skaife's writing is fresh and witty, and his intelligence and care over the ravens is proven over and over. He is humble about his military career and very informative over the group of ravens in his care. Overall a solid and refreshing memoir.
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Chris Skaife may have the coolest job there is. It’s certainly one of the most unusual. Skaife is currently the Ravenmaster at the Tower of London. His official title is Yeoman Warder of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and member of the Sovereign’s Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary. As the Ravenmaster, he is charged with making sure England never falls.

The legend is that if the ravens ever leave the tower, it will crumble and “great harm will befall” England. As such, the very future of the kingdom is in his hands — and the ravens’ wings. At least, if you believe the legend. The Tower of London would rather err on the side of caution.

Yeoman warders live within the Tower and are charged with acting as historians, preservationists, tour guides and more. Skaife begins and ends each day with the storied ravens, who have their own personalities and preferences. But he never set out to be a yeoman warder, or an ornithologist. 

The memoir is loosely structured around the sequence of events in a day, an easy way to introduce the reader to the wide range of responsibilities. He writes of being up in the early morning mist, heading to the meat markets before the public is up and about. He details the birds’ rituals, as well as his own. But he also tells his own story.

Skaife opens up about his troubled adolescence and readily shares some of his less-than-genius decisions. He is not oblivious to the fact that the ravens are both insightful and forgiving of his past. They don’t judge him for a drunken evening as a teen but they do evaluate him everyday as the one who watches over them. His book shows a genuine love for the birds and pride at being entrusted with their wellbeing.

His tone is matter-of-fact and cheeky, and instantly endearing (He reads the audiobook version and I imagine it’s very funny). His utter lack of pretense makes something truly extraordinary instantly approachable and relatable for any age of reader.

And if you’re truly interested in the day-to-day life of a yeoman warder (and you should be), you can follow Skaife as @ravenmaster1 on both Twitter and Instagram. He shares delightful photos and videos of his beloved corvids.
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I found every aspect of this book incredibly well done. From the personal tone it is written in, to all the interesting information it imparts. We get to know the Ravenmaster, his time in the military, and what it takes to get this position in the tower. We learn about the Ravens, not only the stories that surround their being at the tower, but an up close look at their habitats, and even their personalities. One of their favorite snacks are dog bones soaked in blood. Well, they are carnivores, after all.

All the superstitions associated with Ravens, from the heralders of death, to one of my favorite parts, the connection between the esteemed Charles Dickens and his use of Ravens in his novels. The most famous being the Raven Grip in Barnsby Rudge. As the author notes, "I may have a rather partial view, but to my mind Dickens counts as a genius not because of his prolific output, nor because of his famous public performances and his great public works, but because he gets every single detail about Ravens right!"

Of course the famous inhabitants of the Tower, and stories associated with them and the tower itself are included. In fact, for a book without a large number of pages, there is much information s d entertainment to be found. I enjoyed every moment of my reading experience, but then again this is the season for the macabre.
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A charming peek into life with the ravens who reside at the Tower of London. 

There wasn't truly enough material for a book here (there was a lot of needless filler included that wasn't really relevant to the ravens or life at the tower), and much of the information felt disappointingly non-scientific. I was expecting more substance from a book that turned out to be mostly fluff. It felt a little odd that I had just read a book purporting to be largely about ravens, yet had learned very little about them during the process.

Still, Skaife is a deeply likable narrator and the vignettes about the birds are cute.
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This was a truly interesting book. It is written as a memoir mixed with historical and personal anecdotes about the author’s life, primarily about his life with the ravens. The book feels personal in nature, almost like you’re spending time with an old friend sharing his intriguing and odd experience as the Ravenmaster of the Tower of London. The author also includes occasional facts and historical anecdotes of ravens, teaching them to us as he himself learned them over time. Mr. Skaife describes his relationship with the ravens with the utmost respect and familiarity, making me personally feel like I have not done enough to understand the animals in my own life. I have just gained yet another reason to plan a hopeful trip to London.
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Stepping back into history is fun, but ravenmasters do not really seem to go that far back, according to Skaife's comment that he is but the sixth appointed ravenmaster at the Tower of London. I recommend this very well written book for lovers of London history because tourists who step into the Tower estate will find themselves so crowded by other tourists that they may not get as many stories as they wish--and certainly not from the ravenmaster. I liked reading about the ravens and Skaife's frank admiration of them. We are beholden to bird lovers and rescuers everywhere. I was enchanted by this book! #The Ravenmaster and its cover art. #NetGalley.
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Goodreads Rating: 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4.

This will be a very brief review, not for lack of interest in the book, but rather because it was relatively short itself.

Skaife is a delightful storyteller, and this memoir weaves the perfect mixture of facts about caring for the ravens at the Tower, personal history, and Tower factoids. I never felt like the raven-memoir aspect of it was ever sacrificed for the personal history aspect. Skaife frames the book around his daily routine with the birds, with chapters veering off to talk about the history of the ravens, their species as a whole, a variety of reminisces about his personal history and how he got to work at the Tower, and, of course, the routine itself of caring for the ravens. All around it was both informative and amusing read. I had wished it was a bit longer, or more substantial in some some aspects, but it also worked perfect as a short book due to the wide variety of topics covered.

Highly recommended for anyone who is interested in the Tower of London or ravens!
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What a delightful read! I have a particular love of birds, especially birds who choose to live closely with people, so I was very excited to be chosen to read this by Netgalley. And it was worth every minute I spent with it. Not only do we get to learn about the ravens of the Tower of London and all the history and lore that goes along with them, but we also get to know each bird’s personality and quirks. Even more, the author shares stories of his experience, both as Ravenmaster and his time in the infantry, and he is as entertaining and charming as you could possibly want. 

I really enjoyed this book and was sorry to see it end. Highly recommended.
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This is just a perfect mix of a day-to-day memoir of the Ravenmaster, some anecdotes about his life and his hijinks with the ravens, and a bit of history of the Tower and ravens with some raven science mixed in. Skaife comes off as a very likable, dutiful guy who is super passionate about his charges, which makes this a pleasure to read. I did it in one day. When I visited the Tower, I felt bad for these guys who have to wear these uniforms in all weather, but you can really see that, at least for Skaife, they really love their jobs. A really interesting and unique book (and short too)!

A copy of this book was provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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As an Anglophile, I wanted to read this just because. I'm also fascinated by ravens - they are highly intelligent and I wish I could have one as a pet. I have followed Christopher Skaife's social media sites for a long time and was thrilled to see that he has a book out. It did not disappoint. I will definitely want to reread it again and take better notes next time so I can write a better review of it.
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I enjoyed reading this book quite a bit.  It is a combination autobiography and history describing the life of the Yeoman Warder who is in charge of caring for the ravens that live at the Tower of London. He tells anecdotes about working with the birds, explains why they live at the Tower, the procedures that are used for caring for these animals and provides a lot of information about the raven itself.

As an American born and raised in Southern California, I have never had the opportunity to tour the Tower of London, but have visited Disneyland numerous times.  I have often thought that being a tour guide for the Jungle Ride at Disneyland must be one of the best jobs at the park, as the tour guides consistently make silly jokes and bad puns and seem to be enjoying themselves immensely.  Based upon Skaife's book, I am guessing that being a Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London is a very similar position. His descriptions of many of his and his coworkers interactions with the public reminded me of the type of humor I have heard on the Jungle Ride, and this good natured humor permeates the entire book, and made it an overall pleasant reading experience.

One of the unexpected pleasures that arose out of reading this book was his description of the ravens themselves, which are much more intelligent than I ever knew.  I was reading this book on my iPad, and frequently found myself clicking away from the book to listen to recordings of raven vocalizations, and videos of ravens flying, or using tools or solving complex problems.  It was a fascinating introduction to a subject that I knew nothing about previously, and I am looking forward to doing more research about ravens and their behavior.

All in all, this was a quick and enjoyable read that I definitely recommend.

I received an advanced reading copy from Farrar, Straus and Giroux via NetGalley.  Thanks!
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So interesting!  The history of the tower combined with the biology and behavior of the birds was a fascinating combination.  The work is well written and balanced  Will absolutely be recommending and reading again in he future!
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I've been a friend of Christopher Skaife's  "Ravenmaster" page on Facebook for a while now, and enjoyed his book. Part history of the Tower of London, part study of raven behavior, it is informative but light reading. I liked learning more about the ravens as well as learning more about the day to day lives of the yeoman warders who live inside the tower.
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