Review by Ian Keogh
Prolific writer of children’s adventure books Anthony Horowitz now has seen his Alex Rider series adapted as a series of graphic novels, but as horror fantasy Raven’s Gate is a very different type of story.
At fourteen Matt Freeman makes an ill-advised choice to break into a warehouse with a friend carrying a knife. It’s a recipe for disaster, and disaster is soon on the plate. Matt’s only alternative to a custodial sentence is to be fostered on a Yorkshire farm. He discovers ways of life alien to his experience, not least the eccentricity of his surroundings and the local population. By this time we’ve already seen that his new guardian Jane Deverill is hardly defenceless despite her advanced years, and the longer Matt lives with her, the more he learns of sinister events. He also learns that assessments have indicated he has precognitive talent.
The original novel began with more than a little of the tension, mood and mysticism of young adult classic The Owl Service about it, with vague supernatural threats trading on the unfamiliarity the countryside presents to most children raised in cities. From that opening point it expands into something far more ghastly, and Matt’s presence has a purpose.
If one ignores that precognitive ability might have prevented the circumstances that led to his time in Yorkshire, this is a suitable spooky thriller for older children. Tony Lee breaks down Horowitz’s story well, but the art by Dom Reardon and Lee O’Connor, is functional, but no more. It tells the story in a murky black and white fashion, but considering some of the visual elements they have to work with, mobile dinosaur skeletons being one, it’s a shame the art doesn’t provide greater spectacle.
It’s the opening half of the book with its suggestion of terror that’s the most pleasing. Eventually the story blends the very modern with the very ancient, both terrifying threats, but by the end, although liberating, the conclusion plays straight to formula, convenience intruding as Matt develops the tools he requires. The epilogue reveals that while Raven’s Gate is complete in itself it feeds into a larger series titled The Power of Five. Two further adaptations followed, starting with Evil Star.