Poetry Shelf review: Eileen Merriman’s Time’s Raven

Time’s Raven, Eileen Merriman, Penguin, 2023

Time’s Raven, Eileen Merriman’s second book in her Eternity Loop series, is a terrific sequel to Indigo Moon. The dystopian novels introduce a new generation of virally optimised young adults, offspring of the protagonists in the Black Spiral trilogy (my review of Book 3). You don’t need to have read the first series before embarking on the second.

In Indigo Moon, Indigo Hoffman breaks the rules of time travel knowing there will be consequences. She is the child of virally optimised parents, as is her friend, Rigel (Hunter Blue). She is driven by questions of what is right in a society under threat. In Raven’s Time she must appear before Black Spiral Intelligence to face their decision.

Reading Time’s Raven is an exhilarating, thought-provoking form of armchair travel through time and place. Heart in the mouth reading. Heart racing faster reading! The loops and twists and surprises are deliciously unexpected. What exactly is the Eternity Loop? Who can be trusted? Who can be loved? Who will be loved? There is no way I want to endanger such perfectly crafted narrative tension by giving you a plot summary or a a bouquet of spoilers (I read a review today of this book that gave things away! Why would you do that?).

This is dystopian fiction at its lucidly written best. That the characters matter is enhanced by Eileen’s skill with dialogue. The gripping plot is elevated by its layered context. Place comes alive but so too do the issues and vital questions, and that keeps you on your reading toes. I love that! What happens, for example, if fertility rates drop? What measures are taken if the world is besieged or under threat of plagues? Personal relationships are not only key, they are a reading hook. Love goes hand in hand with jealousy, loyalty goes hand in hand with love. It is edge of the seat reading on so many levels.

Lately I have been musing on how books can have terrific power and reach, especially when our planet is beset with climate change, war, hunger, conspiracy arguments, pandemics, floods. Yes, a book like Raven’s Time has the ability to divert you, to offer a satisfying form of entertainment, to represent complex human relationships – I loved it for that – but it also challenges you to consider challenging issues, from the progression of science to the vulnerability of Earth. Raven’s Time is essential reading, glorious reading. Highly recommended.

Eileen Merriman’s first young adult novel, Pieces of You, was published in 2017, and was a finalist in the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and a Storylines Notable Book. In addition to being a regular finalist in the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, Merriman was a finalist in the 2021 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel and Moonlight Sonata was longlisted for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction 2020. Three of her young adult novels have been optioned for film or TV, including the Black Spiral Trilogy. She works as a consultant haematologist at North Shore Hospital.

Penguin page

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