Author: R. Phoenix
Publisher: Excessica Publishing
Pages/Word Count: 70 Pages
At a Glance: In spite of some reservations, I liked Ravel for its premise.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: When the monsters of myth and lore claimed the world for their own a decade ago, they relegated humanity to the bottom of the food chain. Survival takes every ounce of the skill and cunning Ashton has learned as a human faced daily with supernatural predators. When a chance encounter with a werewolf reminds him surviving isn’t really living, he must choose between what he knows and what could be.
Reese hasn’t been able to face the world in years. He hides away in his home, rarely venturing out lest he be forced to face what reminds him of all that he’s lost. When a human thief breaks into his home one night, he’s confronted with the harsh truths of a society he supports through his silence. But when questioning the status quo is punishable by slavery or death, can he risk being labeled him a sympathizer?
Review: R. Phoenix’s Ravel is a short story set in a big world. One of the things I loved about the premise of this novella—the thing that kept it from becoming status quo, in terms of its genre—is the alt-verse the author has created. Anyone who’s read a fair amount of spec fic involving shifters is familiar with its tropes: the shifters are either in hiding from the human population, or they’ve been integrated into society and live right alongside the mundanes, with rarely any variation of the two. What Phoenix explores in Ravel, albeit briefly, is a society dominated by supernatural beings—shifters and vampires and witches alike. The human population has been subjugated and relegated to slums where they have no political clout or financial infrastructure at all, and have themselves become animalistic toward each other in many ways. In essence, the humans in this book are refugees from the civilization they’d been the ones to build—not quite a cultural genocide but definitely not an environment that fosters the chance for humanity to survive let alone thrive.
Ashton’s status as a human lends credence to his status as a thief, and his status as a human thief in a world ruled by supes gives plausibility to his being in Reese’s home when he’s caught red handed in the act of attempting to steal from the shifter, which allows Reese and Ash to meet in a way that’s authentic to the author’s world building. What this also sets the foundation for is allowing us to see Reese as an outsider and a sort of conscientious objector to the Status Quo this series references. Reese has a conscience, but for a supe to show any sort of empathy toward a human is akin to treason. Humans are pets at best, slaves at worst, disposable when they cease to serve a purpose. Nonetheless, we see Reese as a man who would rather take certain risks than to betray himself and his ethics, which goes a long way toward making him a likeable character, but it’s the loss he’s suffered that makes him sympathetic too.
Building an Alt U and a fully fleshed out relationship and getting a reasonable amount of character development in the space of only seventy pages is no mean feat. Something is generally scrimped on for the sake of word count, and in the case of Ravel, I have to say I feel the lack is most evident in the relationship department. We get to know just enough about the culture and its structure to ground us firmly in the setting. We get to know just enough about Reese and Ash—who they are at their basest level—to like them. What I didn’t get enough of was why I should believe they’ll work together as a couple, or if Ash will end up being worth Reese risking his own safety to keep, but I did get enough to enjoy their potential.
If I have one nit to pick about this novella, it would be the excessive use of epithets (the larger man, the smaller man, the other man, the sick man, the mousy man, et al.). All the various ways the author chose to avoid name and pronoun usage became such an unfortunate distraction that it threw me out of the story far more than a good editing should have allowed for. This, coupled with more than a few proofing errors for the word count, detracted from what is otherwise an interesting storyline.
That said, I liked Ravel well enough for its originality in a genre that’s got more than a little mileage on it.
You can buy Ravel: A Ripples in the Status Quo Story here:
Rate This Book: