‘Orphaned magician, Aram, and his magpie eyes, wander the Carrionlands, with only “The Voices” as a guide. That is until Aram rescues a mute girl named Bina from the wicked Vulture King. Along with the help of a secret rebellion, Aram learns that his mother has been taken hostage by the Vulture King and used as a magical battery for the Vulture King’s magicians. She hasn’t long, and Aram’s only hope is to find what they call the Radix, a mysterious source of enchanted power. But that’s no easy task. Aram must cross the Barrens, a dangerous place of chaos and savage life. Can Aram save his mother or will his new companions, the Vulture King, and the horrors of his world come crashing down upon him?’
The Vulture King is a captivating story with timeless themes such as magic, epic quests, loneliness and adorable animals, and young readers will find the story engaging as well. The language is beautiful, but at times complex, so young readers with a smaller vocabulary might find it a little challenging. It was fast-paced, and the plot kept me interested until the end. The pages turn quickly, and the buildup of understanding the mechanics of magic and trust amongst support characters, makes for a great read. It took me a day to read it. It wasn’t until halfway through the book that I released the book was a young adult, mainly targeted at children type book. This book made me laugh out loud several times. One of my favorite moments was when Bina, a mute character who talks through her dove called Love, was found out to be a person with magic (Veldera as their called in the book) because her dove pooped on her. This book also shows the price of magic, with heavy emphasis on characters using their other senses. The characters that have magic have disabilities such as being mute or blind. For example, the author encapsulates the main character’s blindness through emphasis on smell: ‘The smell of resin in his nose, fragrant as spice, was the scent of freedom.’
One thing I loved about the book was how fleshed out and believable the characters are. The main character is very young, and we see his growth as the story progresses and he grows into the responsibility given to him. At the beginning he felt pressured and would constantly doubt himself. However, over time we see Aram grow and slowly mature. I love the development he goes through to be in a good mindset where he can take responsibility, as from the start he was drowning in bleak thoughts, felt ashamed of asking others to better understand his own power and made to feel stupid. Aram acts like a child at first – we see him mature and grow with him, and witness a journey and development of drowning and belittling himself, to mustering enough confidence to get the job done and understand that some sacrifices will need to be made to reach a better future.
Another thing about this novel that stands out is how throughout the book Aram gets flashbacks of his mother’s death or the last time he was with her. Throughout the book there are references to how she sounded as he is blind. In some instances he doesn’t just remember her screams but how lovely her voice was. There is a contrast between her beautiful song that was as ‘sweet as that of her [familiar] nightjar’, which told the main character how much she loved him, and then suddenly having him remember the screams she made. The jarring transition from calm and loving memories to the one of her death is wonderful (not for the character!) as it symbolizes Aram’s trauma. Some books I have read have characters who don’t show they have been through a traumatic experience and then when the prequel hits, I’m utterly confused by the origin story as it shows the character going through a traumatic event. Even little things such as having nightmares or flinching or staring into space, just to connect the trauma mentioned to the character.
This may be a fantasy novel, but the themes discussed are relevant today, such as how power can corrupt and how people who are different face judgment and discrimination, and ultimately how sometimes winning the fight for justice is more important than individual lives.