‘Raven Woman’s Tavern’ by Laura Koerber – Review

There were many things the people of Warrentown didn’t know about Raven…”

I’ll admit the first line of this book’s blurb caught my attention straight away and the reading experience that followed did not disappoint. The powerful prologue sets the scene of a remote forest setting where man came, destroyed and then left again but the constant being ‘Raven’ who is a powerful deciding figure among the trees and a place where this book finds it’s setting.

“Animals, plants and people, came and went, but Raven stayed…”

Most dystopian futures focus on cities or even the masses but Raven Woman’s Tavern homes in on the path less travelled and welcomes you to Warrentown, perhaps a forgotten corner of the world where a community of people are still trying to survive whatever happened out in that wider world. Many of them are older or just trying to get by and we meet near enough all of them along the way. It has all the feels of a Stephen King multi character piece but without the overindulgence because between them there is a real sense of community and their hub just happens to be a quaint tavern. Of course this is intentional because Raven is watching over them and protecting them with it.

The story begins to take direction as a group of young Militia turn up at the tavern looking for more than just a few drinks and their troublesome presence brings the a taste of what is going on in the wider world. After one of the group’s wallet appears to go missing they return yet again looking for trouble but instead receive a lot more. This is where things really kick up a notch because Raven starts to play with their heads and what is supposed to be a short path for them becomes a lot longer and for the sake of protecting the people of this small community. For one of them in particular this path puts everything into perspective and becomes an opportunity for Raven to recruit someone new.

Laura Koerber tells this immersive story with range and imagination. There are even a few deep metaphors about life and survival. It’s dark in places with some chills but also carries a deeper moral story about community. My only real critique would be for the ending to have a little less pace but for anyone looking to read something different with a dark fantasy edge then this is the one for you!

4 Stars – This review first premiered via Reedsy Discovery.

‘Big Noise’ by J.P. Biddlecome – Review

A tale that walks the fine line between survival and madness through solitude…

Young author J.P. Biddlecome tells a story through the eyes of sole character and teen ‘Mark Poe’ in what reads like a diary style account of exploration. It pulls you in quickly and then comes the realisation that he’s lost. ‘Mark’ has been turned around in the Oregon forest and so survival along with trying to keep things together becomes the priority.

The setting is wonderfully described and literally feels as if its closing in. This is written by someone who knows the setting well and so combining that with the urgency to survive comes the real story. From the need to build a fire to quickly diminishing food rations, staying warm and even Coyotes, our narrator faces many different challenges that all centre around survival and in the end he see’s it as a sort of game.

This solitary feeling coupled with a slow burn madness ‘Mark’ experiences makes for a readable and mostly enjoyable read. There are some moments where the narration style comes across as repetitive; ‘I did this’ and ‘I did that’ and similar phrases do appear often and this is something that could have been executed with a little more variety. Being able to show a reader as opposed to telling them is limited in this setting because of the solitary feeling but still it kept my attention throughout and made for an interesting read. For those who enjoy a shorter reads about survival in a wonderfully described setting will find this book well worth a look.

3 Stars – This review first premiered via Reedsy Discovery