Source: Author – I received this in exchange for an honest review.
Series: The Celtic Blood Series #1
Narrator: Lesley Parkin
Edition: Audiobook, 8 Hours 6 Minutes
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Purchase: Amazon / Audible / Barnes & Noble
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Destined to become Queen of Scotland.
Bound by blood to the Celtic gods.
Scotland, 1026–Gruoch, descendant of the line of MacAlpin, should have been born into a life of ease. But fate is fickle. Her father’s untimely death, rumored to have been plotted by King Malcolm, leaves her future uncertain and stained by the prophecy that she will avenge her family line.
Escaping to one of the last strongholds of the old Celtic gods, Gruoch becomes an adept in arcane craft. Her encounters with the otherworld, however, suggest that magic runs stronger in Scotland than she ever imagined.
Haunted by dreams of a raven-haired man she’s never met, Gruoch soon feels her fate is not her own. She is duty-bound to wed a powerful lord, if not the Prince himself; however, she’s not sure she can stop her heart when she meets Banquo, a gallant highlander and druid.
Melanie Karsak does it again! Highland Raven is a delightful mix of historical and fantasy that pulls inspiration from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The story centers on Lady Macbeth, before she ever took that name and is instead Gruoch MacAlpin the daughter of a royal bloodline and at the heart of magic from the Celtic gods.
Karsak has made her way onto my favorites list with her The Harvesting series, and are among my favorite audiobooks because of her care at picking amazing narrators who bring her stories to life. She doesn’t disappoint with Highland Raven. I will admit to being somewhat hesitant with this one since it’s a little different from her other novels, but that worry was pretty much pointless because I really think she knocked it out of the park with Highland Raven. We are given a chance to look at Grouch as she grows up and begins to learn that her fate has been set before her by the old gods, and that she is not only bound as a relation to the King but also by the old magics that still linger in the land. We get a surprising amount of religious strife as Christianity starts it’s hold on the area and as those who still believe in the Celtic gods struggle to hold onto that heritage in the face of outright disapproval. Then there is the magic itself…I completely adored all the chapters in which Gruoch spent with the coven, as that is when we really start to see the Bard’s work pulled in and weaved into the story-line in bits and pieces.
There was so much I wasn’t expecting as far as the characters go. Grouch (Lady Macbeth) is portrayed as a power hungry woman who is completely lost to her husband’s ambition in the original Shakespearean play, she pulls the strings behind his rise and we occasionally see the three fates at important moments lingering. In Highland Raven we see her as a woman who is placed with tremendous power and finds love not with Macbeth, but with Banquo. She is strong willed, curious, and glad to have this higher purpose, though the power behind her isn’t one that allows for weakness or mercy. Then there is Sid…who is burdened with a gift of her own, but becomes a fast friend to Grouch and is completely delightful.
The narration, as a mentioned before, is perfection. Lesley Parkin does an excellent job with the reading and really makes each character stand out with a variety of different accents. She does read a bit on the slow side but she does have a pretty steady pace and a fantastic reading voice.
There is so much I wish I could talk about when it some to HR, but this review has gone on long enough already without adding in even more rambling about character development and fantastic scene setting. Karsak is definitely an author to keep an eye out for, and I really love her range. I’ll be keeping up with this series for sure and I can’t wait to see how Lady Macbeth handles the new revelation at the end of this book.