Ravens and Writing Desks is an engaging read, even if fantasy isn’t your go-to genre. It is the story of a young girl who must travel to another dimension to fulfill a prophecy and save the world.
Throughout the story, there are allusions to fantasy classics, such as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Alice in Wonderland. The title itself is a twist on the Mad Hatter’s question of, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” In the broadest terms, Ravens and Writing Desks is a throwback to these classic coming-of-age fantasies. To be more specific, Meekings takes traditional fantasy elements and reinvents them into a dark and fun tale for the young at heart.
Lucy, the protagonist of Ravens and Writing Desks, is a character plagued by her otherness. She does not feel at home in the world, where she is bullied, and doesn’t have many people left to count on. Her plight is relatable, and her desire for escape is palpable. While the opening may seem like a typical fantasy-adventure setup, there are plenty of surprises that come as the book progresses.
Meekings makes compelling choices throughout the book, especially in the ways that he blends fantasy with the real world. An example is a character named Conscience, a humorous and wise partner who accompanies Lucy everywhere she goes as a voice in her head and offers the reader a unique interiority that is hard to pull off in fiction. While sometimes this feels like a shortcut, the charm of Conscience ends up making for the best voice of conscience since Jiminy Cricket.
Indeed, much of Ravens and Writing Desks is character-driven. Chris Meekings is successful in creating a genuine portrayal of a young female protagonist on the brink of puberty. She transforms into a vigorous, complex, and empathetic individual, finding the strength within herself that she didn’t know was there.
“I am Alice of the white, Alice who killed the queen and tamed the cat. A Childe, who broke the mirror. I am Lucy, who conquered the wardrobe and who holds the lion in her thrall. I am the Gayle, who arrived in a twister to kill the witch and find her way home again. I am Zara, daughter of Ethan, who died at my hands. I have traveled through mirror, desert, forest, time and space to be here.”