Title: Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle
Author: George Hagan
Recommended for: Grades 4-8
Call Number/Link: J Fiction Hagan, G.
Gabriel Finley loves riddles. His father taught him one every day; every day, that is, until he disappeared. For three years Gabriel’s father has been missing and his father’s somewhat dotty but loving sister is taking care of Gabriel. Ravens also love riddles. They use riddles to distinguish themselves from valravens—evil birds who never laugh, who eat human flesh, and who turned humankind away from friendship with ravens. On Gabriel’s 12th birthday, his aunt gives him his father’s diary and he discovers that his father was an amicus, someone who could merge with a raven and fly through the sky. He also discovers that his father’s older brother, Corax, was also an amicus who turned evil and disappeared. Soon after, Gabriel rescues a baby raven and discovers that he, too, is an amicus. The raven, Paladin, tells Gabriel that they must find an object called a torc, which can grant any wish, before Gabriel’s Uncle Corax does. The titular character, along with Paladin; Septimus, a former inmate who knows his father; and three school friends, sets out to rescue of his father and, in essence, save the world. Hagen has crafted a tale that contains riddles, magic, courage, loyalty, and compassion in a way that is sure to engage readers. Gabriel inhabits a dark world where friendship is the guiding light and differences are respected and valued. This is a great read for fantasy lovers who have worn out their copies of “Harry Potter.” The ending suggests that more is to come, and more will be welcome.
I really enjoyed this book and I think it would be a great book for middle schoolers, especially those who enjoy riddles and wordplay. Hagan also works in some Norse mythology but the book is not as based in mythology as the Percy Jackson series. One warning I would give would be about some of the violence and ‘gore’ in the book. The undead valravens are like zombies in that any injuries they sustain do not heal (one valraven’s head is permanently detatched). Also, to become valravens they must eat the flesh of their closest friend. A sensitive reader might find this a bit too much. But considering how many people take their young children to R rated movies, this is probably not a problem. (I’ll get off of my soapbox now.) I thought Hagan created a very interesting world that held my interest and was not too predictable.
Another Harry Potter/fantasy read alike.