My Favourite Books
The Raven Mysteries by Marcus Sedgwick
It's no secret that I'm a YA blogger who reads a fair amount of children's fiction in the 5+ and 9+ age ranges. There are some real gems to be found amongst all the ballerina and pony books (not that they aren't good, too, there's just a lot of them), including the series I'm writing about today: The Raven Mysteries by Marcus Sedgwick. It's a UK series published by Orion Children's Books, there are six titles in the series and I guarantee it's one of the funniest series of books you will ever read.
I'd been reading Marcus's teen books for a while when the first Raven Mysteries instalment, Flood and Fang, was published in early 2009. I saw it on the shelves while I was still working at Borders and made a mental note to buy a copy sometime. A few months later book two, Ghosts and Gadgets, arrived for review from my friend Nina who works at Orion. Obviously I couldn't read book two without book one, so I bought a copy of Flood and Fang and read it straight away. Now I've laughed at books before, namely Louise Rennison's Georgia Nicolson series and Sue Limb's Jess Jordan series, but I've never laughed so much at a book aimed at nine-year-olds. I'm sure my mum thought I'd gone bonkers - every other page was cracking me up! I had a feeling then that this series would be a long-standing favourite of mine, and I was right.
My signed copy of Flood and Fang. Futhork!
I should probably tell you a bit about the books and the madness you'll find on the pages. Do you remember The Addams Family? If you do, you'll understand what I mean when I say The Otherhand Family featured in The Raven Mysteries is just like them. They're crazy, quirky and very, very different to you and I. The family consists of Lord Valevine and his wife Minty, and their children Solstice, Cudweed and toddler twins Fizz and Buzz. They all live in the gothic setting of Castle Otherhand, where they're also joined by Cudweed's pet monkey, Fellah, and Edgar the raven who's been watching over them for years and who also narrates the story. They're the most mismatched, strange selection or people all living under one roof, but that's part of their charm. If I could visit Castle Otherhand and meet them, I'd be there right now!
The Otherhand family. All illustrations by the brilliant Pete Williamson.
Throughout the six books, lots of hilarious, crazy things happen at Castle Otherhand, which is where most of the humour comes from. There's a very high turnover of maids as each one is met with a funny, grisly end, numerous animals (like a horde of rabbits!) descend on the castle and Lord Valevine makes new inventions that malfunction and almost kill everyone on a regular basis. It's a pretty dark series of events when you look at it closely, but it's written with such wit and charm that the underlying darkness is all but forgotten. I'm a big fan of gothic, supernatural and gruesome stuff, and I'm quite sure that's why I love this series so much. It's all my favourite things rolled into one!
My hardback copies of the series. For some reason books 1 and 6 are in another box I can't get to.
Each book is also accompanied by absolutely fantastic illustrations courtesy of Pete Williamson. If you've never seen his artwork, you really should check it out next time you're in a bookshop. He captures the Otherhand family and all their madcap antics perfectly, bringing them to life in a way that no-one else could. He fits so well with Marcus Sedgwick's writing and I really do think they're the best duo in children's fiction. Honestly, they're both just brilliant.
I've met Marcus quite a few times now and have subsequently talked his ear off about The Raven Mysteries at every opportunity I get (apologies to you too, Nina!). I'm sure he's quite fed up of me by now, so I'll offer my apologies - hehe! But hey, what's better than talking to the person who created these fantastic characters and finding out what influenced them? Nothing, I don't think! Admittedly he's a lovely guy and dutifully signs every book I thrust into his hands. He's also very good at drawing Edgar the raven so, if you ever get the pleasure of meeting him, ask him for a doodle and tell him I told you to.
Signed poster with an Edgar doodle by Marcus.
As I have all the hardcovers for this series, I very kindly sacrificed my paperback collection and passed them on to my friend's eight-year-old nephew a few months ago. He absolutely loves them and recently drew me a picture of Edgar (which is excellent), and his mum tells me that it's now one of his favourite series too. I'm so happy to have been able to introduce someone (of the right age! Ha!) to this series so that they can get the same enjoyment from it that I do. It's one of those series that is underrated and not that well known when I mention it to other readers, though I'm trying to change that by selling lots of copies to customers at work.
This is part of a thank-you letter written and drawn by my friend's nephew, eight-year-old Josh.
I hope this post has managed to convey my love for The Raven Mysteries, and inspires someone to pick up a copy and give it a go. Even if you're a twenty-six YA blogger like me, it's never too late to go back and read fiction for children. Often it's more imaginative than some of the YA I read and, as with this series, it's certainly funnier. Here's a complete list of all the books in the series, which has now sadly finished. *Sob*. I'm still holding out hope for a continuation at some point in the future, maybe when the characters are slightly older and Edgar has found a lady raven?! I'd be so excited if a seventh book was ever announced, though whether it will happen I don't know. But for now... all my fingers and toes are crossed!
Me and Marcus Sedgwick at an event a couple of years back.
Book 1: Flood and Fang
Book 2: Ghosts and Gadgets
Book 3: Lunatics and Luck
Book 4: Vampires and Volts
Book 5: Magic and Mayhem
Book 6: Diamonds and Doom