Tuesday 26 October 2021

A Discovering Diamonds Review of Call of the Raven by Wilbur Smith with Corban Addison

2 stars only

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon CA
Amazon AU

ficional drama / nautical/ adventure
Virginia / various

"The son of a wealthy plantation owner and a doting mother, Mungo St John is accustomed to wealth and luxury - until he returns from university to discover his family ruined, his inheritance stolen and his childhood sweetheart, Camilla, taken by the conniving Chester Marion. Mungo swears vengeance and devotes his life to saving Camilla-and destroying Chester. Camilla, trapped in New Orleans, powerless as a kept slave and subject to Chester's brutish behaviour, must do whatever it takes to survive. As Mungo battles his own fate and misfortune, he must question what it takes for a man to regain his power in the world when he has nothing, and what he is willing to do to exact revenge..."

I confess, I had not read any novels by Wilbur Smith, even during all those years when I worked in a library, but I came across this title as a Kindle Unlimited and thought perhaps it was time that I delved.

Maybe I chose the wrong title because I was disappointed. Very disappointed. I assumed, as I was reading, that maybe this was a book written early on in Mr Smith's career as it had a rather 'old fashioned' feel about the style and plot, but not so - to my astonishment, according to Amazon it was released in 2020! (I did check to see if this was a re-release  - apparently not, although please correct me if I'm wrong.)

I couldn't get to like the main character, Mungo St John. I found him full of his own importance and angst. Yes, characters must have motivation for the action that is to (hopefully) come, but this guy, I thought him a larger than reality meant to be a 'goodie' person, but who kept whining about his misfortunes, most of which he brought on himself anyway. I liked the female character, Camilla, probably because the poor girl had to suffer all the misogynistic stereotypical expectations of a Colonial black slave. 

This is a title, I assume, aimed at the male readership market, a male author writing for a male audience; nothing wrong with that, but I'm reluctant to use the word 'misogynistic' again as it is banded around quite a lot lately... however... I think I'm going to have to. There were several scenes of a  sexual nature (rape) which did not need the detail. (Predictable - it was inevitable that the author was going to include this.) Plus male dominance over women, general  male egotism, general male arrogance... Yes, this was the norm for the period, these were the 'accepted' attitudes until relatively recently (still are?) - we cannot change history - BUT (and it's a big but) I found it all so distasteful. I skipped chunks because these scenes were so blatantly tedious in male attitude. Add to that, the story was so very predictable; I knew what  was to happen in almost every approaching scene, not just the eventual outcome.

I also question the historical feel of the story. This was set in the  1840s, pre American Civil War (1861-'65) but the period felt much later to me  - 1870s/1880s, late Victorian?

To be fair to Mr Smith this was co-written with Corban Addison (sorry, never heard of him). I'd strongly suggest that whoever selected him made a poor choice.

What was well done, however, was the portrayal of slavery. How, to the majority of men in that era black slaves were goods to be bought and sold, used and abused at their masters' will. Mungo regarded slaves as human beings, although other actions of his in this story were not so commendable.

Here on Discovering Diamonds our policy is we only post 4 or 5 star reviews, and our priority is indie and self-published historical fiction. So why am I writing this review for what I consider a 2 star mainstream novel? 

Frankly, if Call Of The Raven had been submitted to us for potential review under a different (unknown) author's name it would have been instantly rejected. So, this review is to make a point and to shout out for good indie writers who are all too often dismissed as second- or even third-rate writers. We still come across the view that 'if a book is good enough it will be accepted by traditional mainstream', thereby implying that indie and self-published novels are not good enough. Well, I think mainstream needs to take a good look at itself!

Why are mainstream publishers continuing to churn out such poorly written books, when there are dozens of absolutely brilliant indie writers out there producing stunning 5 star reads?

I looked at the 5 star Amazon UK comments for this title: the majority were written by men. Nearly all were not regular reviewers (you can easily tell when you know what to look for). Only two were 'Vine Voice' regular reviewers (I also have that accolade). So I do question just how useful these 5 star comments actually are? (I also looked at the 1 and 2 stars and found uite a few readers thoroughly agree with my view).

A great pity that our stalwart reviewer, Richard Tearle, is no longer with us (he passed away in April 2021, and is very much missed) as I would have liked his male perspective opinion. I suspect he would have agreed with me, though.

Thank goodness for our indies! Keep at it ladies and gentlemen - all the reviews posted here this month are superior to this particular title. In my opinion this title should have remained in the slush pile - or never written in the first place.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Helen Hollick
 e-version reviewed

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