Hardcover, 384 pages
Expected publication: August 26th, 2014 by Random House Children's
and Schwartz & Wade
From Goodreads: "This fast-paced, exciting, and emotionally rich fantasy novel for middle graders reads like a cross between The Phantom Tollbooth and Harry Potter.
How can 11-year-old Gabriel find his missing father, who seems to have vanished without a trace? With the help of Paladin—a young raven with whom he has a magical bond that enables them to become one creature—he flies to the foreboding land of Aviopolis, where he must face a series of difficult challenges and unanswerable riddles that could lead to his father . . . or to his death."
I love Norse Mythology and was happy to see that Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle is based on the myth of Huginn and Muninn. Although, I wish Hagen had included some more detailed information at the end of the book in an authors note to the reader about the origins of the myth. But, it's a small quibble and encouraged me to do some research online for myself. I found that Huginn means "thought" and Muninn means "desire" and these two ravens were thought to be helpers to the god Odin, kinda like his eyes and ears.
Within Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle, Huginn and Muninn are advisers to a human king during a time when both humans and dwarfs were struggling over who would live on the surface of earth and who would live underground (This becomes known as Aviopolis in the story). The myth provides the back-story to Gabriel's quest and history about why ravens and humans were friends, how valravens were created and why protecting a Torc or silver necklace that grants wishes is so important to Gabriel.
Gabriel is primarily the main character, but he does receive help from Abby (who's kind of weird but is alright with that) and Pamela (with her overbearing mom and desire for her to play violin and not eat sweets) as well as a boy named Somes. Somes, who at first bully's Gabriel, but who's story was the saddest part of the book but also the most uplifting in the way he eventually handles his home situation. There are also the ravens. Like Paladin, who is destined to be Gabriel's amicus or "a raven's human friend...can share thoughts. They can merge as one, and fly as one (paravolating)." but there are also ravens who are evil and Gabriel's uncle Corax who is the most evil of them all.
And then there are the riddles, Gabriel loves riddles like...."When is a door not a door? When it's ajar. He liked riddles that used unfamiliar words, like ajar, which means a door that is slightly open, but he also liked riddles that stretched your imagination, like this one: You'll always see me in first place in a running race, third in a marathon, fourth in a tear, yet never in a dash! Who am I?" Riddles play a prominent role in the story, they are what helps distinguish the good from the evil and the answer to a riddle will help Gabriel to find the torc and save his father.
Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle is also about being brave and selfless. It's about Gabriel having to put faith or trust in someone else even though they may disappoint him, he also might find that they surprise him too. Hagen includes humor in the form of a dancing desk that holds clues if you know how to ask it the right questions and I can't say enough about the riddles, they are certainly entertaining and fun to try and solve.
Overall, I really loved the premise of the story and its link to Norse mythology. The human to raven connection was intriguing and there was just the right amount of darkness and danger during the quest to not make the story to scary.
All quotes were taken from an uncorrected eBook proof. In exchange for an honest review, an ARC was generously provided by Random House Children's for free via NetGalley.