Raven’s Peak by Lincoln Cole
31/2 Stars (out of 5)
Raven’s Peak is a good book that could have been great. It suffers from an ending that is simultaneously too rushed and too long. Part of this is because Raven’s Peak is volume 1of the World on Fire Series.
We initially meet the Reverend, a/k/a Arthur, in a subterranean prison controlled by an organization called the Council. It is the Council’s job to protect the world from demons and other assorted evils. A member of the Council, Frieda, seeks the Reverend’s help because three of the Council’s hunters have disappeared, including the Reverend’s protégée, Abigail. The Reverend travels to the last known location of the hunters and discovers they had encountered a demon far more power than they had expected. Two are dead and the third, Abigail, has been possessed by the demon. The Reverend manages to trick the demon to save Abigail and three innocent young girls, but at the cost of his soul being sent to Hell.
The book then jumps ahead a few weeks where we meet Haatim who is having a crisis of faith following the death of his sister. Her death has also caused a split in his family so Haatim is not on speaking terms with his well to do family in India (they are paying for his apartment in Arizona). Not knowing what to do, Haatim agrees to play private detective for George Wertman. Wertman claims a woman is following him and wants to kill him. Haatim follows the woman following George. The reader soon discovers that the woman is Abigail and George Wertman is just an empty vessel for a demon. And the demon has decided to use Haatim’s body when George’s is destroyed by Abigail. This is prevented by Abigail, but draws Haatim into her world.
After saving Haatim, Abigail is tasked by Frieda to investigate strange goings on in Raven’s Peak, West Virginia. With a quick stopover in Colorado where we learn Abigail is still trying to save the Reverend’s soul, the book quickly brings us across the country, using the road trip as a means of delivering expositionary information.
The characters, especially Abigail and Haatim are well developed. While they are, in someways, standard characters, Cole’s writing fleshes them out and makes them feel more developed than stock characters in a plot. The 9th Circle, the evil counterpart to the Council is interesting and I wish they had more to do in the story other than get the plot rolling. The first half of the book is very good.
The problem with the book begins once Abigail and Haatim get to the titular Raven’s Peak, the book suddenly goes into overdrive. We meet the demon causing the problem. And when the Council finds out the demon, it decides to napalm the entire town, giving our heroes the standard one hour to put everything right before everything is incinerated. From this point forward in the book everything feels truncated. It’s almost as if the author didn’t know quite how he wanted it resolved and just put in a generic set piece of the good guys saving the day against incredible odds. The book should have better paced the last 1/3 of the story. A little more time setting up the final confrontation and how the demon was impacting Raven’s Peak would have been preferred.
And yet in another way, the ending is too long. The book should have ended with the culmination of the battle with the Demon. Instead, the very end of the book entails Abigail and Haatim chasing down an object the Demon had come for and then having to face the consequences of their actions. The book ends of somewhat of a cliff-hanger.
The first book of a series should be rather self-contained. Yes, leave the threads for the following books to deal with, but the first book should simply set up the world. By having the post-demon battle scavenger hunt and its non-resolution, the reader feels somewhat cheated out of a full story. The story in Raven’s Peak instead of being resolved just stops midstream. It would have been better if the post battle scene had been the prologue to volume 2 of the series.
While Raven’s Peak starts out strong and gives us good characters, the abrupt and somewhat arbitrary end of the book prevents me from giving it 4 stars.
(Note: Raven’s Peak is published under the Kindle Scout Program. Readers can vote which novels they think should be published based on the first few chapters (about 2000 words in length). If a novel you pick is selected for publication, Amazon sends the voter a link to receive a free copy of the book. This is how I obtained a copy of this book)