Gabriel Finley & the Raven’s Riddle

Author: George Hagen

“Why is a raven like a writing desk?” While Gabriel Finley might not know the answer to that classic riddle, he certainly could answer most and probably tell even more. But little could he know that his passion for riddles could be a literal life saver, or the key to finding his missing father. Life with his Aunt Jaz is fairly quiet in their brownstone Brooklyn home until one day she begins telling him their family history–and the truth about ravens, who can actually talk with humans, love riddles as passionately as Gabriel himself, and can form a lifelong bond with a single human, their amicus. Also, ravens can go bad, committing an unspeakable act and turning into flesh-eating zombie birds called valravens. Shortly after this conversation with Aunt Jaz, Gabriel’s life begins to change significantly, meeting the young raven Paladin, finding his father’s journals, and meeting a sinister-looking man who says he can lead Gabriel to his father. If only Gabriel and his friends can be smart enough, brave enough, and loyal enough to make it through, they might be able to rescue him. . . .

Gabriel Finley & the Raven’s Riddle is a book I randomly picked up at the library because the cover looked interesting. I’m very glad I did. This is an unexpected and unusual children’s book–probably for a middle-school audience and up. The writing itself is quite good, and the plot is complex but not too overboard. There’s a definite puzzle-piece fit to it; the unique characters and their unique personalities and skills are all integrally necessary for the small group to be able to defeat the valravens and their evil king. Even character flaws somehow fit into the greater picture. The characters themselves are quite well-written and interesting themselves–rather a mixed bunch, in a good way. I appreciate that the story promotes good character–bravery, loyalty, compassion, etc.–in a totally non-pushy way. It makes you want to be all those things. Plus, all the riddles in the story are fun to try to solve before you get to the answer in the book. I think Gabriel Finley & the Raven’s Riddle would be a great story for kids on their own or as a class book study–and of course for grown-ups as well!

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