A Shadow Above: the Fall and Rise of the Raven

A Shadow Above
Joe Shute
Publisher:  Bloomsbury Publishing, London
2018
Hardback
Page Count:  272
ISBN Number:  9781472940285
£
16.99

This book is less about Ravens than it is about the variety of shadows that Ravens have cast on human society over the ages, and up to the present day.

The author charts a dappled course through myths and legends of Ravens, their cultural significance in different parts of Britain as well as further afield, and findings from studies of Raven biology and behaviour. It also takes in accounts of meetings with conservationists, researchers, farmers, gamekeepers and other folk with an interest in this Ravens. The nature of this interest varies markedly from person to person, and the author does a good job of representing their various experiences, understanding and opinions of Ravens in a balanced manner. This neutrality is tempered by the manner in which tales and interviews are interwoven with musings and reflections of the author’s own, and the book often has an autobiographical feel to it. The narrative flow of the book does not sweep the reader from start to finish, but meanders between disparate patches of prose, pulling them together like pieces of a patchwork quilt.

That said, the book is well written, and despite the constant switching between different places and perspectives, the stitching holds. It is, consequently, a book that could be read straight through, but would also be well-suited to readers wishing to explore its contents by dipping sporadically into it. Either strategy will reward the casual reader with a wealth of interesting information about Ravens and, more particularly, our relationship with them.

Mark Wilson