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Literature / What the Raven Saw

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An unlikely hero. An extraordinary story.

It begins with a bad-tempered and bitter old raven who considers himself the guardian of the churchyard, where young children taken before their time are buried. He settled there after his Cynicism Catalyst, and has made something of a peace for himself with the flowers on the graves and the beautiful choir songs in the church. But his peace is about to be shattered—the raven's church is in danger from a thief, and he's being constantly pestered by Todd, a lonely young boy-ghost who fears for his grieving sister. But why should he bother to help anyone, when no-one has ever helped him?

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A short, beautifully-written children's novel by Samantha Ellen-Bound. Prepare to cry more than once.

This book provides examples of:

  • A God Am I: The raven suggests this at several parts in the story (jokingly) and the priest initially believes he is the Lord Above.
  • Age-Appropriate Angst: Mackenzie is implied to be about eight or nine during the book's events, and has no experience or understanding when it comes to death and grief. It shows.
  • And That's Terrible: Stealing a handful of coins from the collection bowl? Unforgivable. Outing who the thief is? Unforgivable. Directing a friend to a tree that had bees in it? Unforgivable.
  • Angel Unaware: Some pretty hefty symbolism, such as the gold bangle (which is totally not a halo) getting stuck on the raven's neck, implies he's this. He certainly helps a lot of people with issues about life and death without realizing it.
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  • Attending Your Own Funeral: How the raven meets Todd.
  • Bee Afraid: Causes the first crack in the friendship between the raven and Father Cadman.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Sure, the raven's won back his church and has a new outlook on life...but what else does he have? Not to mention all his friends end up leaving him.
  • Black Comedy: Both the raven and the pigeon are fond of this. Unsurprisingly, Todd is not. The pigeon is worse about it though, cracking some very distasteful jokes at Todd's burial.
  • Break the Cutie: Both Todd and Mackenzie suffer this.
  • Butt-Monkey: The pigeon, and towards the end Barnabas Brittle.
  • Byronic Hero: The raven. Crosses between this and Anti-Hero.
  • Cassandra Truth: The priest doesn't believe the raven when he tells him that there is a thief in his convention.
  • Companion Cube: Subverted. The raven genuinely loves his weatherhen, but it's left ambiguous as to whether he really understands that she's inanimate.
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  • Consolation Backfire: Lucie knows exactly how Mackenzie feels. Her dog died once. Mackenzie reacts about as well as you'd expect.
  • Creepy Cemetery: Played with. Most of the graves are very old and not up-kept, there are ghosts wandering around, and during storms the place becomes very eerie. However, most of the time, it's described as more of a peaceful, if melancholy, place.
  • Creepy Crows: The raven thinks of crows—mildly present in this work—as lesser beings (and secretly envies their ability to eat carrion guilt-free).
  • Crisis of Faith: Initially Father Cadman believes the raven is attempting to force him into this. He doesn't take it well.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: When the raven was young, he was thrown from his nest. No other bird ever tried to help him or show a modicum of kindness.
  • Death Is a Sad Thing: Especially when you think your brother's death is your own fault.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Todd's entire plot is an attempt to keep Mackenzie from crossing this. It works.
  • Devoted to You: The scarecrow would give everything he had to Lucie—if he had anything to give.
  • Downer Beginning: The story opens with a young boy being buried after he was killed by a car, while his devastated sister weeps and rages.
  • Dull Eyes of Unhappiness: Todd, Mackenzie, the raven, and the scarecrow are all described as having these at one point.
  • Driven to Suicide: Almost, in the tree-sitter's case; but a rather darker example in, as the pigeon suggests, the scarecrow's disappearance.
  • Dysfunction Junction: All the main characters have some sort of flaw or heavy baggage, and it's this that prevents them from trusting one another.
  • The Eeyore: He gets better over the book, but the raven is still very much this.
  • Forgets to Eat: Mackenzie, and it takes a toll on her health.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: In the raven's book, there is nothing worse than stealing a treasure that's already been collected.
  • God Is Good: Surprisingly, considering the story takes place almost exclusively in a church and its surrounds, God never comes up much. However, both the raven and Father Cadman believe this.
  • Grave Clouds: Todd's funeral takes place under these.
  • Grave-Marking Scene: The raven regularly returns to Todd's grave to mark it, just so others know that he existed.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: A few times, most notably during the raven's darkest hours.
  • He's Just Hiding!: The raven insists that this is what happened to the scarecrow. The pigeon is doubtful.
  • Hypocrite: Both the raven and Father Cadman fall under this, at the same time. The raven conveniently forgets that the priest did warn him about the bees, and Cadman apparently doesn't remember that all creatures are welcome in his church, regardless of whether they're God or not.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: It takes a long time for the raven to admit this to himself.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: It takes a while, but Barnabas Brittle eventually lands this trope. He appears to have a compulsion to steal, and desperately wanted to be caught—and if the raven was correct, he was about to have a heart attack when he was found out.
  • Informed Attractiveness: The raven constantly tells us that he's handsome, and the scarecrow agrees with him. But he is a bird, so it's a little hard to judge.
  • Intellectual Animal: The raven is quite clearly just as clever, if not more so, than humanity. And he never fails to point it out.
  • Interrupted Suicide: The raven stops the tree-sitter by telling him a secret.
  • Irish Priest: Father Cadman.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The raven, though he loses the "jerk" part as the book goes on.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: The raven has a compulsion to steal anything shiny he sees.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: It's one-sided, but the raven and his weatherhen.
  • Made Myself Sad: The raven has a tendency to do this to himself, thanks to his penchant for dark humor and deeply buried empathy.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: One of the main issues that plagues Todd and Mackenzie. Eventually the raven solves this.
  • Not So Above It All. Oh, the raven tries so hard to pretend he doesn't care...but he's really this.
  • No Name Given: Only a few human characters are given names. Everyone else is just referred to by their species.
  • Pals with Jesus: The priest thinks he is. At first.
  • Parental Abandonment: The raven's Cynicism Catalyst begun with this.
  • The Pollyanna: Lucie, although it doesn't do much good for the world.
  • Polly Wants a Microphone: Well, duh.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Mackenzie does not take the "valley in the shadow of death" well. Her brother doesn't belong in that valley, he belongs with her.
  • Saintly Church: Downplayed, but still very much there.
  • Sand In My Eyes: Sorry, it's an allergic reaction. To water.
  • Sour Outside, Sad Inside: Who else but the raven?
  • Sour Supporter: The raven and Mackenzie, to each other's plans.
  • Starts with Their Funeral: The book opens on Todd's.
  • Stepford Snarker: Both the raven and Todd have shades of this.
  • Talking Animal: The raven can talk to humans whenever he likes, but he doesn't because he fears he'll be trapped in a cage.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: Played in that the man probably wouldn't have ended up killing himself, but was still clearly in a very bad place. Inverted in the case of the scarecrow, as it's the raven who indirectly convinces him it's the only way out.
  • Tearful Smile: Mackenzie, upon finally speaking to her brother's ghost.
  • There Are No Therapists: Mackenzie appears to have no-one to speak to about her feelings, which is partially why her brother's so worried about her.
  • Tragic Keepsake: In the end, all the raven has left of the scarecrow is his hat.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Played with. The raven thinks this is happening to him, but compared to those around him, his problems really aren't that bad.
  • Troubled Fetal Position: Mackenzie and Todd do this a few times.
  • Unable to Cry: It's implied that the raven can, but he doesn't—because the world can't get to you that way.
  • Tsundere: The raven and Mackenzie are both mostly tsun.
  • Wicked Cultured: The raven can sing and wears an eyepatch.
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