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"The Mark of the Raven" is the first in a brand new fantasy series from Morgan L. Busse. This was my first time reading this author, but as I thoroughly enjoyed my recent reread of Sharon Hinck's Sword of Lyric series, I decided to take a leap of faith that this might be up my alley, too.

Lady Selene is the heir to House Ravenwood, one of the seven Great Houses in this realm. Our story opens as Selene receives her gift - a secret ability that has been passed on to Ravenwood women for generations. It is the gift of dreamwalking, of being able to enter another person's dreams and thereby influence their thoughts and actions. Although she's trained her whole life to accept the role she will play in her family, Selene is surprised to learn exactly what the gift is and how things unfold as she begins experimenting with it.

It soon becomes apparent that House Ravenwood has kept its gift a secret for less than honorable reasons. Selene is horrified to find that her forebears have become experts at exploitation and even murder through their dreamwalking. Knowing the same will be required of her - or worse, of her sisters if she should refuse - causes Selene to wrestle with her purpose and her calling.

To the north of House Ravenwood is House Maris, where young Lord Damien must use his gift of controlling water to protect his people from invasion. Unlike some of the other Great Houses, Damien follows the Light and wants to see the Houses restored to unity as was originally intended. Damien calls together a meeting of house rulers, never imagining that such a gathering would be the perfect place for those working against him to infiltrate his dreams, as well as the dreams of others, for very different purposes.

This book was hard for me to get into. For one thing, I felt like Selene was underdeveloped. We received little backstory on her, and what we did was not congruous with how she was presented on the page, making her motivations confusing. Damien was a more well-drawn character, easily understandable and accessible to me as a reader. I also had issues with some of the plot choices, and a few technical complaints about the writing itself.

This story did not really seem to take off until about 200 pages in. The best thing about the book, and the reason I would be interested in reading Book 2 when it releases, was the way the Light drew Selene whenever she came into contact with Damien. This was fascinating and I cannot wait to see how it continues developing. It was an excellent reminder of the Light we hold within us.

I received my copy of the book from the publisher. All thoughts in this review are my own.

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