You might remember that I reviewed the Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin, by L. Jagi Lamplighter, in which a magical girl ended up at a magical school, collected nearly a dozen magical friends, joined a fraternity, investigated a mystery, saw an omen that heralds the doom of worlds, headed off an attack by an army of dozens of mind-controlled students, saved the entire campus, and provided support for a battle that involved the dragon that used to be Professor Moriarty.
Not bad for the first week, huh?
No. Sorry, my mistake. It’s not bad for the first five days of school. Take that, Harry Potter.
How do I know that book one was the first week? Because book two opens only a few hours after the end of book 1, and states she’s only been there five days.
If the books get any more dense, we’re going to have to call Rachel Griffin “Jack Bauer.”
The first 100 pages of The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel handles: recapping the first book, reintroducing the characters, walks back the cat on the enemies from book 1, as well as sets up the conflict going forward. Not bad, huh?
So, if you think that the first book ended a little abruptly, without any follow through, there’s a good reason for that. It would have added another 50-100 pages.
But don’t worry, there is enough solid data here that you can read these books back to back without it being a problem. How do I know that? Because I have three other people I convinced to read these books who did just that.
Anyway, for those of you who fear the repetitive nature of YA books … no. That’s not a problem. There is nothing repeated here. In fact, this one continues to wrap up plot threads left over from the first books — there actually were plot threads dangling, but I didn’t realize it with all the screaming, chaos, and running about in the grand shootout in the finale. I’m almost afraid to see how the series will end…. answer: in fire, probably.
And good God, the references. Everywhere. I think you need a degree in classical literature and be in on the jokes of three different languages and five different cultures in order to get all of the little hints and nods and such in the novels. But that’s a general observation, not specific to this book.
Now, I’ve seen that Jagi doesn’t like having her book compared to Harry Potter. Probably because it’s not fair to JK Rowling. But I’ve given book 1 to other people. And they read only 10% into Unexpected Enlightenment and decided that it was a deeper and richer world than Potter. And the farther in we go, the deeper everything is. Or maybe it just shows us how shallow Potter was and we never realized it. There are no johnny one-note characters here. Everyone has different emotions and moods and personalities. Hell, I think Rachel went through more emotions over the course of any five pages of The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel than the entire body of Hogwarts in 7 novels. That may be unfair, but I don’t think so.
In The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel, you see more sides to people we’ve already seen. Whether it’s the magical prince of Australia, or the Artful Dodger and his pet dragon, or even Vladimir von Dread (I’m almost certain that his family crest reads DREAD IS BAVARIA. BAVARIA IS DREAD, but I haven’t asked yet). In fact, if she ever wants to do an anthology, I call dibs on von Dread shorts, he’s just that interesting. It is a vast and colorful crew, and I suspect we’re going to see more of their own backstories as time goes on.
As for the plot… the short version is that it’s really wrapping up a lot of plot threads from book 1. And there’s a lot to wrap up: the raven that heralds the doom of worlds; the Outsiders from other worlds; the “Lightbringer,” the ones behind Moriarty last time; the one behind THAT threat; her relationship status; the story behind Rachel’s father and his work as an agent … there’s an awful lot kicking around. And we aren’t even going to get into all of the new various and sundry plot elements kicking around.
SHORT VERSION: five out of five. Go read it.