It’s a great feeling when you start laughing from the very first sentence in a book. Many humorous books take a little while to warm up, but not Davi Mai’s Ravenous. Both the author’s Defying Gravity (you can read the review here) and Mother’s Little Angels (and this review here) are full of humour, so I was expecting to laugh at his next book on my list (and I expect to laugh when reading Proxima Bound; I’ll have that review up in a couple of days). What I wasn’t expecting was to laugh as much as I did, whether it’s through the characters, the absurdity of the story’s situations, or the satiric approach to high fantasy.
If you haven’t gleamed it from the blurb, the novella’s title, Ravenous, has meaning for to both its protagonists. First is Jenny, whose closest friend is a raven named Croak. Secondly is Leo “the Licker’s” ravenous appetite for food and alcohol, and to put a more off-colour spin on it, as you can no doubt tell from his nickname, his propensity for providing oral satisfaction to women. Much like Mother’s Little Angels, this is a transgressive book that aims to shock the reader through its bawdy humour. It seems that nothing is off limits to Mai as he throws taste out the window in hilarious ways.
At an estimated 56 pages on Kindle (or just one hour and twenty-seven minutes if you’re listening on Audible), Ravenous is a short read. Mai uses the space to tell a charming story about its protagonists. Jenny has been chosen to marry the evil Prince Erik, waiting to inherit the throne his father vacated thanks to an early (and hilarious) demise, and runs from her fate. Erik has been living off food and ale bought for him by the women who use his services, and runs from an angry husband. From here, the duo form an unlikely friendship, and their travels together lead them on a collision course with the kingdom. The plot is reasonably simplistic, but it lets the characters and humour shine as it builds to its crescendo within its limited space. The length is perfect for the story being told, allowing for a quick read and chuckle without outstaying its welcome.
Mai presents the story through charming and engaging prose that ensures that during moments the reader isn’t laughing, they’ll have a smile on their face. It’s written in the style of a children’s fairy tale, which juxtaposes beautifully with its subject matter, which is not in the least bit appropriate for readers under the age of 18. The prose has a genuine wit to it, itself a humorous companion to the plot and characters, themselves constant sources of humour. The prose doesn’t linger; it provides the information the reader needs with precision. For the novella’s obsession with cunnilingus, the author provides enough detail without it feeling terribly explicit, and not once does it feel like erotica. It’s humour, and humour only.
The dialogue fits the prose, providing plenty of one-liners and laugh out loud moments. There is a fair amount of language in it—as there is with the prose—however, it’s not particularly excessive, given the book’s subject matter. Each of the characters has a distinct voice that sounds entirely natural, especially given the heightened world.
Dialogue aside, the characters in Ravenous all delight. The book’s length doesn’t provide the space for complex characters, but they all perfectly fit within the author’s world. Its protagonists are a joy; lovable characters who are purely entertaining from beginning to end. The side characters all entertain and play their roles in the fantastical satire beautifully. For all its storybook styling, the novella’s world feels as though it stepped out of Game of Thrones, including a few of the characters, particularly the Joffrey-esque Erik. He’s a character you’ll love to hate, much like anyone who’s read A Song of Ice and Fire or watched the show love to hate that prince. I wouldn’t be surprised if Joffrey was a direct influence on the character; if so, Mai has captured him with a sharp satirical edge.
As this book can best be categorised as transgressive humour, it’s not for everyone. Oral sex forms the story’s backbone, and there are a number of sequences where sexual violence plays a part. This isn’t exploitative, but if you’re sensitive to the subject matter, you should be warned before going in. Leo is an overweight character, which is played for laughs, however the book is written in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s punching down. Throughout the book, Mai has perfect comic timing, but you need to appreciate his brand of humour to enjoy it. But if you do appreciate the humour, you will certainly enjoy it.
Ravenous is a book just as likely to offend as it is to entertain, and it’s entirely possible that it will manage to do both. If you’re comfortable with its subject matter, you’ll find a book that works as a great fantasy satire that tells an enjoyable story that builds incredibly well. Filled with great characters, it is a romp that will have you laughing from beginning to end.
Leo didn’t answer. An alcoholic enjoying the day’s first gulp of ale, he squinted his eyes closed and blocked out the noise. He concentrated on the delightful sensation of the cool liquid slipping down his throat. Had he not been preoccupied with his drink, he wouldn’t have answered, anyway. They swore Leo to secrecy. Yvette, Rosie, and most of the local women that lived within a drunkard’s stagger of the tavern. They made sure that chubby Leo didn’t want for drink, or meals, or even a new tunic or warm winter’s coat. Provided he performed certain duties. Duties at which the gods had deigned him to be talented.Ravenous, Chapter Two: “Leo”
Ravenous was purchased for the purpose of an honest review.
Ravenous is available in eBook from book retailers (including—but not limited to—Amazon), and Audible, exclusive to Amazon.
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Please find a link below; please note I do not collect any proceeds from the sale.Ravenous