Cover Image: In the Ravenous Dark

In the Ravenous Dark

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I can honestly say I have never read anything quite like In the Ravenous Dark. The queer representation alone makes it worthy of picking up. A little creepy and violent for my normal tastes, but somehow I still couldn't put it down.
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A wonderfully dark, incredibly LGBTQ+ inclusive novel that confused me at first with what was going on, but when I got into it I really got into it. Also, absolutely love to see poly-amorous representation.
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In the Ravenous Dark follows Rovan, whose father died while trying to protect her from her fate of being controlled as a magic-wielder. After accidentally exposing her powers, she’s sent into a world of deception. In her plans to escape, she falls for Lydea and Ivrilios, two people she can’t trust. But together, they discover a secret that will destroy Thanopolis, and the three must gain each other’s trust in order to save them all.

I’m quite a fan of dark fantasy novels, so books like In the Ravenous Dark always catch my interest. It features many unique aspects in its storytelling, and while I enjoyed this book overall, it’s certainly proved a difficult one to review! There were several aspects of this book that I enjoyed, but in the same breath, there are ways this story could have been executed that would have held my attention so much more.

To start, I really liked the worldbuilding throughout this book. Once Rovan is in the process of discovering her powers as a magic-wielder, we see just how in-depth this world is in terms of how magic is controlled and the lineages behind them. I really liked how the book continually builds on this information as the story progresses, and even though most of it is taught via explaining it to Rovan, I feel like it gave the story so much depth.

I really liked the characters as well. Rovan in particular was a really well-balanced character. For someone that is settling into her powers, her character demonstrates that growth so well. I tend to not be a fan of characters who are new to their powers and skillset and show perfection on day one, so I thought In the Ravenous Dark portrayed this really well.

Additionally, I (for the most part) liked the relationships and representation behind them in In the Ravenous Dark. This book features a polyamorous relationship, which is something I’ve yet to come across in many books. There was one part of this relationship where I found there to be a big power imbalance which I wasn’t much of a fan of. But overall, I thought the relationships between these characters were represented so well.

I think what I would have liked to see more of in In the Ravenous Dark comes more to personal preference than anything. Earlier, I mentioned how much explaining is done in this book to create worldbuilding. Personally, I also like that to mix with personal discovery and descriptions of scenery and the like, which helps me fall into a book’s setting a bit better. There were some really cool scenes in this book as well (i.e. ballroom scenes), but when books focus more on dialogue I find it harder to settle into the book. But, if flowery, descriptive writing annoys you, In the Ravenous Dark would be a better pick.

All in all, In the Ravenous Dark was a very unique dark fantasy with great representation – there were just a few things I would have preferred in terms of execution! I’d tend to recommend this more towards those who enjoy dark fantasy with romance. Just be wary of content warnings going in for darker themes and violence/gore/blood.
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From almost the first page, I knew I was going to love this book. The characters are interesting, and intriguing, and fun to read about. The writing is engaging and snappy, and the plot has great pace. And the world building - oh my god, the world building. Strickland's world is absolutely incredible. Based off Ancient Greece/Rome, the magic is expertly woven through, and I would give a lot to be able to spend some time here.
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AM Strickland is new to me but dear god am I happy that I know her! This book will be absolutely amazing when it releases! Others are going to love this bloody, queer read!
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What a wonderful debut novel! I loved this book. The writing wasn't absolutely perfect, but the setting, the characters, the plot were. Rovan is a pansexual bloodmage hiding her magic from her government, but an accident with her lover causes her powers to be outed and her and her loved ones to be captured.Upon arriving to the city she finds out a few things, the first: her father isn't dead and the second: she doesn't have many days before she is tied to the undead spirit of a former prince and used as a broodmare for her kingdom and her powers. So much happens here in this story, but it's nice to see some representation. One can hope that Strickland continues to write books, grow in her skills, and create even more characters that are kick butt and representative.
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Thank you Netgalley for this Arc! ❤

In the Ravenous Dark by A. M. Strickland  is an intense and dark story full of dangerous magic and romance.  
Rovan lives in Thanopolis with her mother and has been hiding that she is a blood mage her whole life.  However,  all of that changes one day at the market place when Rovan's current lover is in danger and she uses blood magic to save her.  The story continues with Rovan becoming a member of the life at the palace and mixing with royals while learning more about what exactly being a blood mage in Thanopolis entails.   
One of my favorite aspects to this book was the way A.M. Strickland wrote about  gender and sexuality.  I love how Rovan and her friends were able to talk about this and be who they truly are, at least around each other.  

Get ready for a fast paced and action packed story full of magic and love!
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In the Ravenous Dark follows Rovan, a bloodmage who has been hiding for years from the people who killed her father. When she is discovered, she is bound to a ghostly guardian and betrothed to a terrible prince in the kingdom. 

This story was incredible. It’s dark and brutal (I often found myself forgetting it was YA it was so intense). The world is intricate and full of violence. There were so many tidbits of information about the politics, magic system, and society that were incorporated well with the main story. The relationship dynamics in this story were well-done. Rovan is pansexual and I loved how the author focused on the importance of consent throughout the story. I ended up reading this book in one sitting, and I cannot wait to get my finished copy so that I can read through this one again!!!

I received an electronic copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Thanks to Fierce Reads and Netgalley for the ARC.
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In the Ravenous Dark
A.M. Strickland
Release Date 5/18/2021

Thanks to @NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review!

A dark fantasy set in the death-obessesed city of Thanopolis, ItRD was a thrilling standalone read with lots of twists and turns (understandable when death is so prevalent in this society).  Rovan is a 19 year old pansexual bloodmage that is tasked with power that she didn’t ask for, and in the course of her service, falls for her ghostly prince guardian and the crown princess at the same time.  When she uncovers a secret about the entire kingdom, she has to work with her newfound friends to tear down the corruption killing their lands. 

This book surprised me; I went into it not wanting to like it, and fell in love instead.  I’m starting to make a conscious effort to read more books that aren’t straight leads, and I really enjoyed the portrayal of Rovan’s various relationships throughout the story.  People are not lying when they say this book is DARK (lots of blood, death, etc.) but it gets offset in most cases by Rovan’s dry wit.  I’d suggest reading the trigger/content warnings the author has posted on Goodreads, but it was an extremely well-written story that I unexpectedly flew through.  

As always with standalone stories, I always feel a little put out when I want more story, but in this case, it was because I wanted to see more of the world and characters.  The story itself actually does well in a standalone format, and does give you a happy ending, but definitely not one that you’ll expect.
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It’s no secret that I have a severe love for YA Fantasy novels. I was already excited about taking on In the Ravenous Dark just from the synopsis, and, let me tell you, it is pure gold. Hell, this book brought me to actual tears a couple of times; I was that dialed into it.

The story opens up introducing young Rovan. Rovan and her father hold a very deep secret that could destroy their family if the knowledge slipped out: they can wield blood magic.

In a slip-up, Rovan’s father ends up dying to protect her from the ruling class of Thanopolis and that is really where the story takes off.

Twelve-ish years later a very mischievous Rovan ends up slipping and using her magic in public to save a friend/lover, and she is dragged into the royal court to adhere to their rule of being paired with a spirit guardian. This is where it gets really wacky. It turns out her father did not perish, and was forced to marry into the royal family to protect and propagate his bloodline: the source of his magical history and power.

Because of her proclivity to the power, Rovan is plopped right into a society she doesn’t understand, and really doesn’t like. She does, however, pair up with a couple of the other royal bloodmages: Lydea and Japha. Rovan takes on the full power of her bloodline which results in her father’s death, and she stays at odds with her mysterious guardian: Ivrilos.

At this point, there is a massive plot twist that I would feel disingenuous sharing, so I’m just going to say pick up this book.

Ms. Strickland powerfully built a complex world with all manners of details that really warrant more exploration. Rovan is the perfect little pain in the ass hero, and her interactions with Ivrilos, Lydea and Japha are downright legendary. This book was an extremely fun read, and the attention to picturesque detail is downright stunning. I really really really hope this is a first book in a series, because I can’t stand the thought that the motley band of bloodmages is at the end of their tale.
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A girl with magic forced to be something she’s never wanted bond to an undead spirit and falling for a deadly princess. Rovan grew up hiding her bloodmage magic, ever since her father died trying to keep her powers hidden. After saving a friend and accidentally revealing her powers, she is forced into the palace and forced to be bond to a spirit and forced to be used as a bloodmage for the kingdom. On top of that, she uncovers more startling secrets and finds that she essentially has no free will. Rovan is trapped, and doing everything in her power to rebel and break free. She finds that the palace is hiding more secrets and that the only way to break herself free is to sacrifice. 

This was definitely an interesting story and I was all for the LGBTQ+ representation and various relationship representations, from asexual, pansexual, lesbian, and straight. The story really packs a lot into the characters and the twists were great. The star for me the entire book was Rovan. I absolutely adored her. She was badass, she was fierce, and she was caring. She did not take things sitting down and she fought tooth and claw to get her freedom. The relationship between Rovan and her handsome undead spirit guide (who essentially has the ability to harm and control her, and has his own agenda for her), and the beautiful princess is definitely an interesting dynamic for a polyamorous relationship.Taking into considerations the agenda for each characters and their motivations I was able to get past some of my initial gripes with the characters because its definitely understandable, especially when you look from their perspective and what is at stake for them. 

Overall, I really liked this book! The plot twists and turn were great. The magic system was really interesting. The characters were well fleshed out and the dynamics between them were interesting. So I definitely recommend this for anyone looking for a great read with magic, the undead, romance, and political intrigue. 

*Thanks Netgalley and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review*
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After her magic is discovered, Rovan is bound to an undead spirit whose purpose is to control her actions. Rovan then teams up with this undead spirit to start a rebellion in the city of Thanopolis. This then leads her on a journey of self discovery as she is forced to place her trust in those around her. But when the fate of this world and the underworld is in her hands, can she rely on her newfound friends?
      I cannot express how much I loved this book. The unique plot line as well as the beautiful inclusion of LGBTQ+ characters with a pansexual main character have me absolutely thrilled to recommend this book. I laughed, cried, and cheered out loud throughout this book. In the Ravenous Dark also had some dark undertones throughout the plot which added an extra spooky factor and kept me on my toes.
     Can I just say, everyone should have a Japha in their lives. I felt that these characters were perfectly written with original personalities and the world building was easily depicted with the authors writing style.I felt that her Greco-Roman theme die Thanopolis was genius!
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4.5 Stars

Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan Children's Publishing for the e-arc of this book.

Rovan has been hiding the fact that she is a bloodmage her whole life--ever since she watched her father die for being one. Bloodmages are surrounded by death and forced to work for Theopolis, and Rovan will do anything she can to avoid that life...except letting her friend die. When she reveals she is a bloodmage, she is forced to the palace to except a bloodline and a life she wants no part of, and is beset with a Guardian--a spirit that seems to be more there to guard others from her than her from them.   But there is something else going on in the city, causing the world-wide blight, and it stinks of death. Rovan will risk her own life to find out what it is. 

I was all in on the premise of this book: the bloodmage, reluctant hero, secret plots and royal intrigue! The setting is also really interesting and I was so curious to find out what was causing the blight.  There are a lot of twists and reveals that I didn't see coming, and I was kept on the edge of my seat for the entire time! I really love the plot.

The queer rep in this book is also amazing! Rovan is pansexual and polyamorous.  There is a main character who is nonbinary panromantic-asexual, and lots of other queer characters.  I thought it was all well-done and was glad that it wasn't looked down on in this world (as long as characters still reproduced, that is).

The only real complaint I had with this book (and not much of one) is that I didn't really feel the connection between Rovan and her love interests until...very far into the book.  I didn't think the chemistry between them was that great and it seemed like much more of a visual-only attraction for a long time. It did get better though!

The found family element made me want to cry. So precious.  Definitely get this book!

Pub Date: May 18, 2021
Content Warnings
Graphic: Alcoholism, Blood, Death, Death of parent, Gore, Grief, Misogyny , Murder, Sexual content, and Violence

Minor: Body horror, Rape, Sexual assault, Sexual violence, Suicidal thoughts, and Vomit
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Okay, the break down:
-a pansexual main character
-a lesbian love interest
-an asexual/nonbinary best friend
-poly relationship dynamics
-a no-homophobia fantasy world (unless it “gets in the way” of birthing heirs)
-creepy/spooktacular blood magic!!
-found/chosen family, the friend squad to end all friend squads.

I loved everything about this book! The world building was atmospheric to the point of giving me goosebumps and each character feels like a real-life friend of mine. The snarky dialogue and fast-paced plot had me glued to the page!!

The content and overall tone pushes this YA story almost into Adult territory... but if you don’t a decent amount of swearing and some mild-moderate gore, this is the lush queer fantasy for you!!
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I thought the world-building and magic system was interesting but I wished they had been fleshed out more. I was disappointed by the relationships between characters - I felt like there was very little relationship-building so it was hard for me to get invested in the characters or believe they cared about each other.
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Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I was drawn in by the beautiful cover and some of the information I had heard about this book on twitter, and I have to say I am so glad I read this book. This book was right up my alley in so many ways, and I had such a good time reading this book.

There was so much to love about this book. This book has some wild moments where you really can’t imagine what will happen next. The atmosphere is so dark and grim with this city obsessed with death and blood magic. The combination of bones/death and life/flowers that is seen throughout the book is my favorite aesthetic. Most of all, though, I absolutely love the characters. Rovan is just so cool. I loved her. She was so strong and snarky and stubborn. I loved how she would just tell people how it is. I also loved her shade guardian, Ivrilos, as well as the beautiful princess Lydea. And her friendship with Japha was great, too. I just really want more books about polyamory. And I loved how much queer representation there was throughout the book. I also greatly appreciate that this is a fantasy standalone. This book was so unique and was such a fun read. I really cannot wait to read more from this author.
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Whoa! This book was epically good. Pan, poly female lead with cis-male, lesbian and nb/ace love interests. Blood magic, death magic, revenants and palace intrigue. So dark, so excellent!!

When Rovan is found out as a blood mage-in-hiding, she is taken to the palace of Thanopolis to be warded (given a shade "guardian") and put into service of the crown. But all is not right in the kingdom, and Rovan and her circle of friends/loves must move quickly to avert personal disaster and end the kingdom-wide atrocities committed in the name of the crown. But the darkness at the heart of the kingdom will not go quietly, putting Rovan and all she loves in mortal danger. 

Side note, I love the quick discussion between the characters and instant, nonchalant but of course acceptance of polyamory in this book. It is; of course it's okay; and we all want to be happy. 

**I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**
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After how much Beyond the Black Door meant to me, In the Ravenous Dark has been one of my most anticipated releases, and I nearly cried when I received an advance copy. This book was wonderful and emotional and dark and gritty, and I couldn’t put it down!

When Rovan was a young girl, her father from another kingdom always warned her to keep her magic secret, and after seeing him murdered and dragged away by the warded bloodmages, she spent the last 13 years keeping her head down. When she accidentally reveals herself saving her friend, a series of events begins that will change the very landscape.

This book is so strongly made up of chosen family and how hard doing the right thing can be. I loved the discussions of what love is and the ways the characters’ biggest concern is that their partner(s) are happy and fulfilled. I love the friendship with Japha and honestly see their relationship with Rovan as a QPR of sorts.

I just, I loved this book and I don’t want to give too much away because figuring stuff out and seeing the development was part of the fun, but suffice to say I absolutely adored it! I love the magic and the mythology and the characters all so much! If you enjoy books with dark magic and characters trying to fix the world as they know it, plus polyamorous relationships, you’ll definitely wanna pick this book up!!
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I am sitting here, staring at my screen, a little unsure of where to begin. This book left me with conflicting feelings and I’m waffling on whether I did or whether I didn’t actually enjoy this story. If I say, “Yes, I did!” now, in five minutes I’m likely to change my mind. Let’s work these feelings out together, shall we?

I enjoyed reading a fantasy novel that had polyamory that wasn’t frowned upon. Our main character, Rovan, has strong feelings for both Lydea, the rebellious princess, and Ivrilos, her…ghost warrior guard/keeper? While, obviously, Ivrilos was written as a romantic interest with ulterior motives I just didn’t like him. He is a soft boy with big ghost swords and even bigger secrets and his very nonexistence made my nose curl.

The plot is what really drew me to this book. I love a good Save The World story with a side of romance and rebellion. While the overarching plot is good, even great, in concept, I just don’t feel like it was executed well. While some inconsistencies I can excuse for this being an ARC, and I know further editing will occur before the finished book is released, it didn’t stop from the overall story from feeling choppy. While reading, it felt like the writer had a bullet point list of how things should happen and once the item was achieved we moved along to the next point without much in the way of transition. Typically these scene changes seemed to involve our main character becoming black out drunk or being knocked out which allowed transition to the next scene and bullet point item without any kind of flow or set up. She just suddenly wakes up somewhere else and we piece together where she is now and what is going on from there. It left the story feeling choppy and inconsistent.

Despite these little annoyances, I did like the book overall. The plot was interesting enough to keep me engaged and caring how everything sorted out in the end. While I do think the ending was also overly convenient it worked to a point within the confines of the existing plot. Do I wish the plot dug a little deeper and that the story was more fleshed out? Absolutely. But as is, it is still good.

Did I manage to work through my feelings for this book? I’m not sure. The choppy story telling and lack of depth frustrated me but at the same time I felt invested in the outcome. The characters were distinct and had obvious and unique characteristics that set them apart. It was also nice seeing a gender queer side character but as I don’t identify as gender queer I can’t say whether or not that was well represented. So, I suppose, overall this book was pretty good but there were definitely points to be improved upon but I would still pick up books by this author in the future.
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I liked this book more than I expected! When I started it, I was put off by the first person perspective, but the flow of the story got me used to it and by the end, I barely even noticed anymore.

There is a L.O.T. to this story, and all of it is delightfully unique. While blood magic is not a new concept in fantasy, it is portrayed differently here than in other stories (I'm mostly thinking of Dragon Age, tbh). Based on Rovan's power, it feels like blood barely plays a role in her magic, but fortunately she is still far from a prodigy. Too often, fantasy novels feature main characters who are annoyingly good at something they've barely started doing, but while Rovan clearly has the raw power, she lacks the finesse that she eventually (sort of) learns.

The setting itself was great! I haven't come across too many fantasy novels that are based so much on Greek society without focusing on the mythology. But it didn't feel like the author merely "transplanted" ancient Greece into their setting--Thanopolis (such an apt name) is very much its own place, in a world that is definitely fantasy. The other nation presented is very "elven," which contrasts interestingly with Thanopolis and its Greek influences.

The plot was very intricate, with many twists and turns, and while some stories can play too heavily on plot and lose character, Strickland does an excellent job of developing characters that show that potential at the beginning. Not every character undergoes changes, but then not every character in a novel needs to be different by the end. If everyone was given the chance to change, the book would have been over-long, but there was just enough growth to be satisfying.

And of course the love stories! I thought all the love in this book was very sweet. And so many different kinds of love are represented, and (for the most part) it is all treated as perfectly normal. There are some relationships that aren't often shown in fantasy novels, or even YA, and I thought it was delightful that Strickland included them.

Speaking of YA--I actually forgot Multiple Times! that this book is categorized as YA. Partially because of the content, partially because of the tone, this story just doesn't scream "YA" to me. Technically, yes, the main character is nineTEEN, but still. I'm not complaining though--I don't generally like YA, so I enjoyed this.

Overall, clearly I enjoyed this book. There were definitely some things that weren't perfect, I'd hardly argue perfection (but what book Is perfect??). But I genuinely enjoyed this book and its characters, and am glad I had a chance to read and review it.
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